It didn’t take long for Kevin Durant to send a message to Giannis Antetokounmpo – and then another.
Ninety seconds into Monday’s matchup at Barclays Center, KD fed DeAndre Jordan for a dunk and then shouldered Antetokounmpo as he headed back on defense. And shortly thereafter, Durant shoved Antetokounmpo to the floor as Khris Middleton finished off a one-handed slam.
There’s a new bully in the East – and it’s KD’s Brooklyn Nets.
Durant set the tone early by being physical — a bit of a surprise for a future Hall of Famer who has been dubbed “The Slim Reaper.”
By the end, he used his all-world, shot-making abilities to put the Nets ahead for good in a 125-123 victory over the Bucks at Barclays Center.
KD’s 3-pointer from the top of the key turned a one-point Brooklyn deficit into a two-point lead with 36.3 seconds remaining. And Middleton missed a contested corner 3 right before the buzzer.
Yes, we’d gladly take seven games of this in the Eastern Conference finals.
Durant finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while James Harden poured in 34 points to go along with 12 assists and six rebounds. The duo combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter – 13 of them coming from Harden.
Brooklyn has now won a season-high four games in a row. Durant is averaging 30.6 points — second in the NBA behind Bradley Beal.
Kyrie Irving is close to returning following a seven-game absence due to personal reasons, and it could be a tough task for Steve Nash and Co. trying to reincorporate their third star into the lineup, which has been clicking with Durant and Harden forming an unstoppable 1-2 punch.