When I first started following the NBA seriously at 12, I was still in the brief season between the end of childhood and the onset of adolescence. Some things were new and beyond the scope of my headspace. All the social rules and hierarchies from elementary school had apparently been abolished without anyone ever telling me. In seventh grade I’d pass people I’d been friends with or friendly with the year before in elementary school and the look in their eyes made it clear: the past was dead, the here was now, they were looking for a respectable new social circle to settle into and I should, too.
We could pick whatever we wanted to eat every day at lunch. There were nachos, hot dogs, pizza. That same year, someone propositioned me for sex. Pizza five days a week or the possibility of nachos as a meal intrigued me. However, I was neither interested in nor ready to even contemplate sex at 12. Few are, I suspect, but I can’t really speak for anyone else. I declined, politely (manners cost nothing). I’m glad I did. I waited until I was with someone I trusted and cared about years later.
The Brooklyn Nets won their sixth straight matchup against the New York Knicks, 110-107 at Barclays. Usually this is a space where I try to steer readers away from over-simplifying the “why” behind a game’s outcome. Not tonight. It really was as simple as KD, period. To wit:
- Durant: 53 points. The rest of the Nets: 57.
- Durant: 19 field goals. Rest of the Nets: 25.
- Durant: four 3s. Rest of the Nets: two.
- Durant: 11/12 at the foul line. Rest of the Nets: 5/10.
- Durant: nine assists. Given that his teammates made 25 baskets, that means he scored or assisted on 28 of Brooklyn’s 44 field goals (64%).
- In a game the Nets won by three, their only player with a rating higher than +3 besides KD was Bruce Brown.
The Knicks aren’t a bad little team, you know. As disappointing as this season’s been, there’s still a shot they’ll finish with their second-most wins over the past eight years. Julius Randle continued his second-half surge, leading the Knickerbockers with 26. Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett scored 25 and 24, making this only the second time this year three Knicks scored at least 23 in the same game (the other came last week in Sacramento). Their last three losses were by eight points combined at Phoenix, Memphis and Brooklyn. No shame in that.
The Knicks aren’t a good team, either. Their winning percentage is 15 points below where it finished last season; if they finish with that drop, it’ll be only the seventh time in their 75-year history they’d have fallen that far from one year to the next. JR, RJ and Fournier averaged 25 each; the other seven Knicks averaged fewer than five. New York’s dropped 19 of their last 25 games. Atlanta’s magic number to eliminate the Knicks from the play-in is 10 with the teams having 29 combined games left. To call them a longshot is an insult to dark horses everywhere.
The Knicks are a limited team, limited by their talent, their youth and their lack of definition compared to so many NBA teams and hierarchies. New York is in the brief season between “We’ve turned things around!” and “We’re spinning in circles!” Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Golden State — these teams with their superstar duos/Big 3s will step up to challenge Durant and friends come playoff time. The Knicks aren’t ready for a fully-engaged KD, arguably the league’s best player, arguably its greatest scorer ever.
I wish I had something more for you. I always try to put some kind of unexpected spin on these recaps, usually because I really do think most games have soooo much more behind them than the headlines or the box score. Sometimes nah. When Wilt scored 100, that was about Wilt. MJ’s double-nickel wasn’t a W until Bill Wennington slammed home the final points, but nobody remembers it as The Bill Wennington game. Durant came into this one with an obvious sense of purpose, the same intensity he brought to Brooklyn’s statement win the other night in Philadelphia, and again he more than fulfilled it. The pull-up game, the post-ups, the drives, scoring in transition, getting to the line, getting his teammates going — he did it all. Replace KD with 95% of NBA players and the Nets lose this game.
Quoth Durant a few years ago when the press was getting outta control thinking Patrick Beverly was bothering him in the playoffs: “I’m Kevin Durant...y’all know who I am.” God knows the Knicks do, and before the playoffs are up much of the East will be reminded, too, and maybe the Western champs. New York’s next game is Wednesday, when they return to MSG for the first time in 2.5 weeks to host Portland. The Blazers are without Damian Lillard and the traded CJ McCollum, and seem to have no interest in the play-in spot within their grasp. That’s not as sexy as the KD Nets in Brooklyn, but the Knicks don’t need to worry about sexy. A win Wednesday would be nachos for lunch. Not something to live off of for long, but for now good enough.