NEW YORK — Kevin Durant stood at half court, hands on his knees, in disbelief. After scoring 49 points in a must-win Game 5, Durant scored another 48 in Game 7, including a turnaround fading shot to send the game into overtime. He had answered the bell time and time again for the Nets this season.
But with the game and season on the line, it just didn’t go his way.
Durant tried one more turnaround fading shot in overtime, this time over the much smaller Jrue Holiday, but it fell short, like the Nets’ odds of winning a championship this season.
And just like that, it’s all over.
A season headlined by championship expectations, superstars, a blockbuster trade and blockbuster injuries came to a screeching, unceremonious halt as the Nets lost Game 7 to the Bucks, 115-111, in overtime on Saturday. Years 1 and 2 of the superstar era in Brooklyn have proven fruitless, and the Nets’ big gamble on starpower has yet to power them to heights unseen.
Time is slowly but surely ticking, and the Nets will watch yet another team hoist the same Larry O’Brien NBA Finals trophy they claimed belonged to them all along. There are only two more years left until each of their stars become free agents.
It’s not all the Nets’ fault. Brooklyn’s odds at winning the series tanked with Kyrie Irving’s ankle, which scarily sprained in Game 4 to an undisclosed degree. Their odds only slightly increased when James Harden returned early from a hamstring strain, only as a shell of his superstar self.
But the same issues that plagued the Nets for the majority of the regular season came back to bite them in a decisive Game 7. The Nets turned the ball over 13 times to Milwaukee’s seven. They allowed the Bucks to grab 18 offensive rebounds. They allowed Giannis Antetokounmpo to bully his way to 40 points, mostly in the paint. And the defense that had taken so many strides failed them down the stretch, allowing Holiday to break free for five consecutive points that shifted the momentum back in Milwaukee’s favor toward the end of regulation.
Not to mention Steve Nash’s decision not to call a timeout on the final possession, instead letting Durant attack a smaller defender and settle for a post-up from the perimeter.
Durant did what he could, but he had little help. The Nets scored just two points in overtime.
Game 7 had everything fans could ask for: hard, but legal fouls, two superstars dueling each other, et al. It did not have a healthy Irving (ankle) or a healthy Harden (hamstring). That proved to be the difference in Game 7.
The Bucks played through Antetokounmpo, who finished with 40 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, but also got contributions from Khris Middleton (21 points), Brook Lopez (17 points) and Holiday (13 points).
The Nets played largely through Durant, and as dominant as he was, it wasn’t enough to push Brooklyn to a championship without his co-stars.