Kevin Durant's 55 points not enough to beat Hawks
ATLANTA — Not even Kevin Durant can win a game on his own. Though he’ll certainly try.
In a game that was as close to a must-win as the Nets can have, Durant scored a career-high 55 points, his third 50-point game of the season, and hit a career-high eight three-pointers in 10 attempts. The Nets, however, failed to get pivotal stops in a 122-115 loss to the Hawks at State Farm Arena.
The loss dropped the Nets to 10th place in the Eastern Conference and ensured that they will have to participate in the play-in tournament. It looks as if any sort of deep run will take every ounce of their talent, along with some big breaks early on.
They’ll also need their health — which wasn’t a luxury they were afforded Saturday night with Goran Dragic, Seth Curry and Bruce Brown out.
“It’s disappointing,” Steve Nash said. “Our guys are disappointed. They know we can play better. We can’t make excuses. We’ve been hurt all the time. You’ve got to be ready to play.
“You’ve got to find a way. If you’re out of the rotation, you get in the rotation, and that goes for the guys that are already in the rotation, just raising our level . . . We played about as poorly as we could play and it’s a three-point game with two minutes left.”
The Hawks (41-37) moved into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The Nets and Hornets are 40-38, but Charlotte owns the tiebreaker over the Nets in the event of a two-way tie.
If things don’t shift in the final four games, the Nets will have to win two play-in games to make it into the playoffs. Not getting that far would be nothing short of a disaster for a team that began the season with strong championship aspirations and were in first place for all of December and as late as Jan. 22.
The Nets do, however, have the easiest remaining schedule in the league, according to Tankathon. The Hawks are 21st and the Hornets are 20th.
The three 50-point games are the most Durant has ever had in a season, and a franchise record.
Kyrie Irving had 31 points and six assists for the Nets and Trae Young led the Hawks with 36 points and 10 assists. Durant shot 19-for-28 from the floor, or 67.9%, while the rest of the Nets shot 32.4%. They sent the Hawks to the free-throw line 49 times for 37 points.
“We’re reaching, and being undisciplined, just playing too aggressive,” Durant said. “That’s the game [the foul shots]. They shot 42% from the field, which is great defense, [and] 31 from the three. They outrebounded us by two. They had one more assist than us. Turnover game, but we still got more shots up than them. So it’s like just fouls. And we can’t do that if we want to be a winning team.”
A 13-0 run allowed the Nets to close the gap in the fourth, and Irving’s layup with 2:32 left drew them within 107-106 before Bogdan Bogdanovic’s floater put the Hawks up by three. With the Hawks clinging to a 111-108 lead with 55 seconds left, Young hit a floater and a three-pointer to essentially seal the win.
“I can’t come here and act like I’m losing confidence,” Durant said. “We lost some games, you know what I’m saying? We’re going to keep playing until it’s over. That’s how I feel.”