Kevin Durant was blisteringly close to having a 50-point night for the Brooklyn Nets in last year's Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. However, he ended the night with 48 points despite the game going into OT.
The Nets could have avoided OT altogether. KD scored a would-be game-winner at the end of regulation to eliminate the Bucks. However, Durant's toe was half an inch over the line, and the shot counted for two points. That led to the OT where KD went scoreless, completely gassed from trying to carry the Nets that series.
Durant recently appeared on J.J. Redick's podcast and spoke about game seven and what was going through his mind during that game. He elaborated on the shot and discussed how that series was important to him and his playing career.
“Yeah, I knew it was,” Durant said of his foot being on the line. “It’s weird that you can feel that type of stuff like the shot clock running down, or like your foot on the line. It just felt like, as soon as I stepped on it, I’m like ‘damn,’ I knew that sh*t”
“That Game 7 though, that Game 7, I was gassed. It came to that point that like; I didn’t know where I was at one time. I was running back down the court and I was in such a daze like I just felt like ‘hold up where the f*ck?’ and I never felt that in a game before. I was just like ‘hold up, I may need a break’. And he [Steve Nash] called time out right after that."
However, Durant's best game of the series came in Game 5 when KD ended the night with 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists, leading the Nets to take a 3-2 lead in the series. He fell short of making it a round 50, but that game allowed KD to once again believe in his abilities after the disastrous Achilles' tear that sidelined him for over one year.
“I’m still pissed that I missed that free throw to get 50 [points]. It was like wide-left, and I was just so hot because 50,17, and 10 look so much better than 49 [points],” Durant said.
“And that game was huge for me because when you have an Achilles injury like I had somewhat of a doubt of my abilities, my physical abilities. So, like I wanted to test and see like, that’s the best team that we gonna play, and playing 48 minutes that’s the ultimate test to see where my body is, so for me to get through that game and the way that I did it, it was like a huge milestone for me.”
Durant pulled in an iron-man shift in that game and would try to repeat that in subsequent games. He didn't get benched even once in Game 7, which shows that his performance had finally allayed any lingering doubts over his Achilles and whether he can play at a high tempo for the entirety of a playoff game. KD's Game 5 was inextricably linked with his Game 7 performance.
In both situations, KD came short of one point to achieve something meaningful. If he hit that three in Game 7, the Nets would go on to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Atlanta Hawks and be the favorites to win the championship. If he hits the free throw he missed, he wouldn't change the outcome of the game but would achieve a personal milestone of his.
The Bucks and the Nets may be first-round matchups this year. Durant has proven his skill hasn't regressed with another season's worth of mileage. He is a 30-point scorer with great efficiency and would have been in contention for the scoring title, but he hasn't played enough games to qualify. Individual titles don't matter, as KD hasn't been able to keep his Nets out of the play-in, where they will have to fight to get through to the playoffs.
Brooklyn has a high likelihood of facing Milwaukee in the first round, as the Bucks look to finish as either the #2 seed. While the Nets could get a more favorable matchup against the Miami Heat, who are the #1 seed, they will probably be gunning to avenge their loss to the Bucks from last year's playoffs.
Hopefully, Durant's good health continues and the Nets around him stay healthy so we can get the two teams at full strength, which didn't happen last playoffs after both James Harden and Kyrie Irving were injured.