He gave it all he had for 53 amazing minutes, but after hitting a miracle shot to send Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal to overtime Saturday night at Barclays Center, Kevin Durant was scoreless in overtime at the end of a 48-point night. The Bucks held the Nets to two measly OT points on 1-for-12 shooting to eke out a 115-111 victory and advance to the conference finals.
Durant’s last shot was an air ball with three-tenths of a second left, and Brook Lopez went to the line for two foul shots to produce the four-point margin.
The ending was painful, what with James Harden saying he was suffering from a grade 2 right hamstring strain and Kyrie Irving missing his third straight game with a sprained right ankle and sitting in civilian clothes at the end of the court near the Nets’ bench.
"They know they could have won the series," coach Steve Nash said. "They also do realize deep down that they gave it everything they had. It hurts. It hurts bad. It hurts all of us. I hurt so much for these guys. But they also realize they gave it everything they had."
A critical moment came when Giannis Antetokounmpo tied the score at 101 on a layup and was fouled but missed the free throw. Lopez got the offensive rebound and fed Jrue Holiday for a three-pointer and a 104-101 margin with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter.
Durant reached into his bag of tricks and found a way to score eight straight Nets points, the last a desperation, off-balance attempt from inches inside the three-point line to tie it at 109 with one second left. When Antetokounmpo missed his corner try, Game 7 was in overtime.
Asked if that might have been his most memorable shot, Durant scoffed. "Not close," he insisted. "I thought it was a trey, but I stepped on the line. I was close to ending their season."
When the OT period began, Bruce Brown scored immediately on a follow shot. The Bucks didn’t score until Antetetokounmpo tied it at 111 with 1:12 left before Khris Middleton hit a jumper for a 113-111 lead with 40.5 seconds to go. But the Nets missed all 11 shots after Brown’s basket, including the final disheartening air ball by Durant.
No doubt, fatigue was a factor. Durant and Harden each played the full 53 minutes and Bruce Brown played 52.
"We had some fatigue for sure, but we also missed a couple looks," Nash said. "We missed a couple open looks and didn’t make some really difficult ones. It’s a two-point game and you miss one or two shots and obviously it hurts. It was a war down the stretch and in overtime, very difficult to find baskets. We just couldn’t get it done. At that point in the game, guys were fatigued."
Durant had a 17-for-36 shooting night and added nine rebounds and six assists. Harden totaled 22 points despite 2-for-12 shooting from three-point range and had nine rebounds and nine assists. Blake Griffin added 17 points and 11 rebounds, Brown scored 14 points and Joe Harris had 10. Nash used his bench for only 20 scoreless minutes.
Antetokounmpo had another terrific game with 40 points and 13 rebounds. Middleton added 23 points and Lopez had 19.
The Nets led by 10 points in the second period, but there were 11 lead changes in the third quarter, and that tense back-and-forth carried until the Nets ran out of gas in overtime, not to mention the season.
It was a disappointing ending to an injury-scarred season that ultimately crippled the "super-team" that was favored to win the NBA title.
When Durant was asked if he took any solace in his brilliant playoff performance, he waved off the question. "Not at all," he said. "Who cares?"
Harden had similar sentiments. "It’s frustrating when you’re dealing with everything we did," he said, referring to the injuries. "If not for the injuries and we had me [healthy] and Ky on the floor, it’s a totally different thing."
Nash agreed. "We were missing Ky and James was on one leg," he said. "You have to understand it’s not the same. That game could have gone either way. I just told them how proud I am. It was an unbelievable effort. They gave everything they had."