Hoops fans got to enjoy a scoring barrage between two former Finals MVPs on Tuesday. Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant put on a show in the fourth quarter during the Brooklyn Nets victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in a 124-120 shootout. Kawhi went off for 33 points in the game while KD went off for 28 points as he led his team to victory. Durant has scored at least 20 points in every game he has played for the Nets this season.
KD Has a Lot of Respect for Kawhi
KD and “The Klaw” have an extensive history dating back to their time in Oklahoma City and San Antonio respectively. While the mindset of KD is to kill or be killed when he’s on the court, Durant has nothing but respect for Kawhi and already thinks he has solidified his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. “He’s just a savant. He is in control out there. He’s a 3-level scorer, so you’ve just got to be ready for him to do anything out there,” Durant told reporters over Zoom after the win via Tom Azarly of Clutch Points. “He’s a great player, he’s a Hall-of-Fame player, so just got to make it tough.”
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Just like Durant, Leonard is a two-time Finals MVP and a two-time NBA Champion. As impressive as a feat as that is, Leonard’s most impressive accomplishment may be the teams he has had to face to win those two titles. Kawhi has essentially blown up two super teams en route to his two rings.
After defeating the 2014 Miami Heat while Leonard was a member of the San Antonio Spurs, LeBron James left South Beach that summer and took his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. When Leonard won his second title in the Summer of 2019 after beating the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant departed from The Bay to join the Brooklyn Nets and essentially ended the Warriors dynasty. While Leonard has never won a regular-season MVP as Durant did in 2014 he has won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons. He and Dennis Rodman are the only forwards to accomplish that feat.
Injuries Have Robbed Fans of Kawhi and KD Playoff Battles
Fans may have been robbed of some explosive playoff matchups between KD and Kawhi in the past due to injuries. In 2017, during Durant’s first playoff appearance with Golden State, the Warriors were set to match up with Leonard and the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs led by as many as 25 points in game one. Unfortunately, Kawhi injured his ankle in that game and would be ruled out for the rest of the series. The Warriors swept the Spurs that year.
Two years later in the 2019 NBA Finals KD tried his best to return from an injured calf when the Warriors were facing off against Leonard’s new team the Toronto Raptors. KD did return in game 5 of the series but worsened the injury and tore his Achilles, an injury that would sideline him for the next 18 months. The Raptors won the Finals in six games.
Many believe that Tuesday’s thriller between the Nets and Clippers was a possible preview of the 2021 NBA Finals. If that does end up being the case and last night’s game is any indicator of what a seven-game series between Los Angeles and Brooklyn could look like, buckle up. We’re in for one of the best Finals in NBA history.