As the Bucks were hoisting the NBA’s Larry O’Brien trophy this week in celebration of the franchise’s first championship in five decades, many around the Brooklyn Nets were harumphing over the fate of their own side, which missed out on a chance to be in the Bucks’ position by a mere toe.
Or, more accurately, by a “big-ass foot,” as star forward Kevin Durant saw it.
The Nets, remember, had the chance to eliminate Milwaukee in the conference semifinal, even without Kyrie Irving after Game 4 and with James Harden only playing four very hobbled games. That meant Durant had to carry the team, which he nearly did, only missing out on a Game 7 victory because his foot was on the 3-point line for a potential game-winner that, instead of going for a 3-pointer and a win, went for a 2-pointer and overtime. ‘
You remember, of course:
Durant remembers, too. After the Game 7 loss, he lamented, “My big-ass foot stepped on the line. I saw the screenshot, how close I was to ending their season off that shot. But it wasn’t in God’s plan. Hey, we’ll move on.”
And this week, as begins preparation for the start of the Tokyo Olympics with USA Basketball, Durant said he holds no grudges against the Bucks, despite the very narrow margin by which they beat Brooklyn.
“No moral victories,” Durant said after the Bucks’ win. “You only want to be the last team standing in the NBA, in the playoffs. We understand how good we are and our goal was not to push the Bucks, it was to win it. But unfortunately, we didn’t. But congrats to the Bucks, amazing team who fought through a lot these last few years to get to this point. Nothing but respect for them.”
Kevin Durant Carried Nets Through the Bucks Series
Durant averaged 35.4 points per game against Milwaukee in the seven-game East semifinals series, also adding 10.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists. The Nets took a commanding 2-0 lead (winning by 47 total points) to start things off, but the Bucks won Game 3 and took Game 4 after Irving played only 17 minutes before suffering an ankle injury. He did not play again in the series.
Harden, having dealt with a persistent hamstring injury heading into the playoffs, re-injured it to begin the postseason. He tried to come back, but scored just 14.3 points on 30.6% shooting in Games 5-7 of the series vs. Milwaukee.
Still, Durant’s miracle deep ball with one second to play in Game 7 had the chance to put the Nets past the Bucks. Instead, the game remained tied and an exhausted Durant went 0-for-6 in the overtime period, giving the Bucks the win.
Durant: No ‘Rooting Interest’ in the NBA Finals
Durant, in looking at the NBA Finals, deserves some credit for not being bitter about that result. Instead, he expressed his appreciation of the teams and players participating in the series.
He talked about watching the series with other members of Team USA, who were to be joined by Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday of the Bucks, as well as Devin Booker of the Suns once the Finals were over. Said Durant:
Of course we did not have any rooting interest, we wasn’t in here cheering for either team. We enjoy the game of basketball for how it is played and it and that’s the highest level of basketball being played in our league at this time. So most guys just want to see a good game. But you play against these teams, you know these players and we got respect for guys—especially guys on the bench, guys that’s starters, you know these guys personally. To see a couple of friends become champions today was cool. That experience doesn’t happen to just anybody. So you respect the guys who went through that journey.