After missing the past few games due to a bruised thigh, Brooklyn Nets forwards Kevin Durant returned Sunday and dove for 33 points in 28 minutes in a 128-119 victory over the seeing Phoenix Suns.
“It is like riding a bicycle,” Durant said. “You get your footing right and just get your rhythm moving; and I think my teammates did a great job of searching for me all match, and I just wanted to resort back to this work I set up. The shots I work on at practice and shootaround, try to get to people as much as possible to gain my rhythm and then begin to get a little more creative as the match progressed. It was a good start.
“Hopefully, I build on this game and continue.”
For the third time this year, Durant came off the bench for the Nets, checking in with 8 minutes left in the second quarter. The Nets wanted to backload Durant’s minutes, playing him more in the second half, during which he spent 20 of their final 24 minutes on the ground.
“I only deal with it and adapt to this circumstance,” Durant said. “Coach asked me today if I desired to start or come off the seat, and that I felt like it’d be a bigger challenge for me to concentrate in and lock in if I came off the bench, so I wanted to determine how that worked. If I would’ve shot bad, I probably would have been pissed I came off the seat, but I was able to knock down a few shots. Nevertheless, it was strong exercise for me to ease back into the swing of things.”
Coach Steve Nash stated in consultation with the performance team that the plan was to maintain Durant at around 28 minutes of playing time. Selecting how to best allocate the moments led to the option of bringing Durant off the bench.
“You think big image. I’d rather drop behind and have Kevin in the back pocket than move up and have to say,’OK, Kevin, you’re done,’ from the third quarter,” Nash said. “I think that is kind of this give-and-take with it, and he has been on board ; so props to Kevin to being willing to try something like this that I believe gives us a opportunity to become as flexible as we can be under these circumstances.”
“It is more the norm than the outstanding for both,” Nash said of the two stars’ combined efficiency.
One of Durant’s many rare talents is an ability to discover an instant rhythm and defy any potential rust from a long layoff. Durant has had to take care of a series of injuries and other issues over the past two decades, starting with his Achilles tendon injury two years ago, then league COVID-19 protocols requiring him to sit this year, followed by a hamstring injury that forced him to miss multiple weeks.
“Kevin has shown his scoring doesn’t appear to get influenced with a long layoff, whether it was coming off the Achilles or coming from the hamstring,” Nash said. “He seems to come right back, and his rhythm and timing are excellent. It’s quite impressive, for sure.”
“It’s just another game. “They are new on the scene as an elite team, so this is pretty new to them. So we wanted to gauge and take that physicality they deliver, the toughness and quickness they bring, but that’s all it had been. Another day at the office.”
As the Nets plod through the remainder of the program, the attention is on recapturing chemistry and rhythm for their primary rotation players, while also keeping an eye toward health and wellness. With the win, the Nets have obtained a 1.5-game lead for the East’s top seed over the 76ers.
“Right now, notably this stage of the season, it’s about working on us,” Brooklyn ahead Blake Griffin said. “We haven’t all been on the ground together, and we are coming down the stretch here where we all must tighten things up.”