Nets’ Kevin Durant shows Cavs why he’s the ultimate heartthrob

He will break your heart every time. He does. You can fight and claw and claw from 20 points; the Cavaliers did that Tuesday night. You can sneak the deficit into single digits with enough time to daydream; so did the Cavs. The Cavs were outclassed, overpowered, inferior for 3½ quarters.

But here they were.

And it didn’t matter.

Because Kevin Durant plays for the Brooklyn Nets and therefore wouldn’t allow the unthinkable to happen under his watch. He wouldn’t let the Cavs stage an absurd comeback, he wouldn’t let his team endure a one-time gauntlet on Friday night.

Three times, just as the Cavs were starting to get weird ideas, he crushed them with clutch-critic baskets, leaving Barclays center roaring and his teammates breathing. He broke the Cavs’ spirits and then he broke their hearts. He does.

“This is as advertised,” said Nets coach Steve Nash after the Nets beat the Cavs 115-108 and secured a playoff date with the Celtics. Game 1 between the second-placed Cs and the seventh-placed Nets takes place on Sunday.

Kevin Durant led the Nets to a win over the Cavaliers in Tuesday’s play-in game.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

For most of the night, it was Kyrie Irving, Durant’s running mate, who started the party in Brooklyn. He hit all 11 of his shots through the third quarter. He finished the game with 34 points and 12 assists, missing just three of his 15 shots.

“They’re superstars,” Nash said. “That’s what top players do.”

The Cavs had cut the Nets’ lead to 88-82 when Darius Garland hit a 10-foot floater with an 8:43 left; It was as tight as the Cavs have been since the first quarter, but Durant immediately blew a corner 3 to extend the lead to nine. Later, as the Cavs crawled back to 99-93, Durant hit two consecutive 16ft to extend the Nets’ lead to 103-93.

And that was it.

Durant finished with 25 points and 11 assists. Irving may have taken fans’ breath away; Durant was the one who restored it when things started to look a little precarious. He does.

Kyrie Irving (left) celebrates with Kevin Durant.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“We knew they were going to throw a lot of different defenses at us and try to slow us down,” Durant said. “It will take a lot of effort for 48 minutes of each game. Lets see what happens.”

Forget everything that has jinxed, disturbed and confused the Nets this season. There was a reason to tune in every night to see them play – well, at least 55 days and nights plus Tuesday nights anyway. Kevin Durant is that reason.

Otherwise, nothing has gone according to plan in this three-year chapter. The Nets were quickly released from the bubble in 2020. James Harden pushed his way here, arrived and played well, got disillusioned, pushed his way out, all within 14 months. Irving was injured, has not been vaccinated and is unavailable. The Nets would win 60 games this year. They settled on 44 and ended up needing a hot 12-5 streak to get there.

Kevin Durant
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Through it all, Durant was great.

Through it all, Durant has been the only thing the networks can count on, game after game, night after night, crisis after crisis. He’s been given a novice coach and all he’s done is make Nash’s job easier for him. He received two side stars in Harden and Irving, who were chronically unreliable, and a third, Ben Simmons, who has yet to qualify for the Nets – and just played at an almost unimaginably high level.

Still, at age 33, Durant has remained the third or fourth-best basketball player in the world, averaging 29.9/7.4/6.4 and shooting .518/.383/.910 at worst.

(One man’s list, for kicks and giggles: 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo; 2. Nikola Jokic; 3. Durant; 4. Joel Embiid. Although I’d vote Jokic for MVP.)

Durant’s own choice might surprise you.

“If I had to choose, I would go with Joel Embiid,” Durant said. “He led the league in doubles doubles, his team has won 50 games this year. Numbers were incredible. It’s a great year. But you can just close your eyes and just pick any of the guys from the top six or seven and you can have a good MVP this year. It shows how great our league is right now and how talented our league is from top to bottom.”

Of course, among those six or seven is Durant, who has constantly shrugged off the various and varied issues that undermine the Nets’ mission, who simply makes them better by kicking the floor and breaking the other team’s heart. He does. Nets’ Kevin Durant shows Cavs why he’s the ultimate heartthrob


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