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Kevin Durant’s 55 points aren’t enough as the Nets fall to Hawks

ATLANTA — In the biggest game of the Nets season, Kevin Durant gave them a career-high scoring night. And it still wasn’t enough.

The Nets’ 122-115 loss to the Hawks – who fell behind and squandered a career-high 55 points from Durant – relegated them to ninth place in the Eastern Conference. And the common cold at the absolute worst time of the regular season may have made life in the postseason that much harder.

Durant did everything in his power, shooting 19 of 28, grabbing seven rebounds and hitting a career-high 8-of-10 from deep despite being doubled and blitzed. He had his third 50-point game of the season, the most in a season for a net and the most of his illustrious career. And the nets wasted it.

With the Nets (40-38) playing without Seth Curry, Bruce Brown and Goran Dragic — not to mention Ben Simmons and Joe Harris — Durant had few lanes and got no help. Kyrie Irving had 31 points and six assists but only shot 12 of 32. No other net hit double digits.

Brooklyn plummeted to ninth place with just four games left, a game behind the Hawks — winners of five straight games — and only ahead of Charlotte by tiebreaker. And they fell from a double-elimination situation, needing just a single win to earn a single-elimination playoff berth and needing to win twice to advance.

Kevin Durant, who scored 55 points, makes a move on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot during the Nets' 122-115 loss to the Hawks.
Kevin Durant, who scored 55 points, makes a move on Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot during the Nets’ 122-115 loss to the Hawks.
USA TODAY sports

Play-in begins April 12, but if it started now, they’d be hosting the 10th-seeded Hornets, who would need to win to stave off an ignominious non-playoff season. And even a win would only get them a date with the loser of the 7-8 tilt (say Cleveland or Atlanta) and have to come out on top again to get the final seed in the East.

It’s hard to overstate how crucial Saturday was. The Nets were perfectly aware they were coming into play and were outplayed 37-20 in the second quarter but never led again. They came within a point in the fourth but never over the hump.

“I think it’s just a high level of focus and intention and determination, and going into the game with the energy and focus required. If we can do that, I’ll have a great feeling for our team,” Steve Nash said beforehand. “So, it’s a big game. But all you can do is try your best. So I expect our boys to be focused, to go out and play and have fun and enjoy playing games that really mean something.”

Kyrie Irving, who scored 31 points, powers Kevin Huerter on during the Nets loss.
Kyrie Irving, who scored 31 points, powers Kevin Huerter on during the Nets loss.
USA TODAY sports

The game meant a lot; but it’s doubtful the Nets had much fun.

With the backcourt undermanned, the Nets capitalized on their team record of 42nd different starting lineup of the season. Nine quick Durant points put them for an 11-2 lead after just over two minutes; but it didn’t last.

The Nets led 34-29 after a steal and dunk from Andre Drummond, but they coughed up 14 unanswered points — much of the run without Durant on the floor and the offensively challenged lineup. The Nets fell back, 43-34 before Irving stemmed the tide, but it was too little, too late.

The Nets came within 57-50 on Durant’s free throw with 1:26 left at the half; but they gave up the last eight points, topped by a Danilo Gallinari 3-pointer by 0.8 seconds, to go into the dressing room 15 seconds back, their biggest deficit of the evening.

Durant poured in 19 in the third quarter alone to try to get the Nets back in the game and an acrobatic Irving layup cut it to 92-87 with 7.5 seconds remaining. But Trae Young (team-high 36 points) sliced ​​through defense to beat the buzzer.

A pullup by Durant made it 107-103, and after a miss by Young, Johnson made one of two at the stripe to pull the nets left 3:14 in three.

Irving drove to a floating bank shot to cut the lead to 107-106 with 2 1/2 minutes left, but Bogdan Bogdanovic made a three and Young’s floater padded him at 111-106 with 1:31 to five for five. The Nets never got closer than three, and Irving’s missed 3 with 44 seconds essentially sealed it.

https://nypost.com/2022/04/02/kevin-durants-55-points-not-enough-as-nets-fall-to-hawks/ Kevin Durant’s 55 points aren’t enough as the Nets fall to Hawks

JOE HERNANDEZ

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