In a game that looked like an Eastern Conference Finals game with both teams nearing full strength, the Bucks took home victory 117-114.
Antetokounmpo and Durant did their best under the watch of the entire NBA universe, the two MVPs having collected 49 points and 42 points respectively.
But what have we learned from this confrontation over time?
Antetokounmpo is ready for the playoffs
Giannis (49 PTS & 9 REB) died against the Nets ♨️ pic.twitter.com/JcTaSOSgGC
– NBA TV (@NBATV) May 2, 2021
The reigning MVP has lost a few lingering injuries in the home stretch of the season, but this performance proves he’s ready to go when needed. Antetokounmpo missed six straight games at the start of April with a knee injury, but made a comeback afterwards. He played seven straight games since, but suffered an ankle injury in the Bucks’ mind-blowing loss to the last-place Houston Rockets last week.
Antetokounmpo missed a game due to the ankle injury, but was able to prepare for this competition. It was not known if there would be any restrictions or limitations on minutes, but it was obvious that this would not be the case from the start.
Under the lights of a Sunday afternoon prime-time national television game, the Greek Freak put on his best performance of the season at 49 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three blocks and one steal.
He was in attack mode throughout the game, attempting a career-high 36 field goal attempts (converting 21 of them for an effective field goal percentage of 58.3).
In a duel with arguably the greatest goalscorer the game has ever seen in Durant, Antetokounmpo made it clear in this playoff atmosphere that he is healthy enough to take his game to another level when the time comes.
Kevin Durant is From From
– NBA (@NBA) May 2, 2021
And speaking of injuries, Durant has been on and off the Nets injury report throughout the season, but it looks like the former MVP is back to his usual state as well.
In a heavyweight fight against Antetokounmpo, Durant was equally impressive scoring 42 points, 10 rebounds and two assists while shooting 16 for 33 from the field and 7 for 13 from 3-point field.
The superstar forward sat down on the second night of consecutive Brooklyn games on Friday, but there was never any question of being available for that marquee game. This marked Durant’s second straight game in which he dropped 42 points, giving the Indiana Pacers over 40 earlier last week.
The 11-time all-star missed two months of action from February to April with severe hamstring strain, following his Achilles injury that forced him to miss the entire 2020-21 season . He played four games after returning from the injury before a thigh bruise kept him sidelined for three more games. He’s since come back in full – back to back side to side – and every time the four-time champion has been on the floor, he’s dominated in typical Durant fashion.
Including this contest, in his last four games since returning from his thigh bruise, Durant is averaging 33.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting. 57.8% of the field, 54.5% of 3 and 93.8% of the free -throw line.
Holiday vs Irving is the game we didn’t know we needed
Two things we knew: Kyrie Irving is almost impossible cover for just about any player in the league and Jrue Holiday is an All-Defensive Team-caliber defenseman.
So what happens when an unstoppable force hits a brick wall?
This time, Holiday won the battle.
Irving was still productive for normal standards, with 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals, but he shot 38.1% from the field and 25.0% from 3.
Holiday was Irving’s primary defenseman and while NBA.com game data for this contest is not yet available, the eye test tells you he played a major role in Irving going 8 for 21 on the field. and 2 for 8 of 3 with four turnovers.
It would be interesting to see if Holiday would defend Irving or James Harden in a possible playoff game between these two teams (assuming Harden would be in good health by the time these teams meet), but who wouldn’t like to see seven games of an offensive maestro against a defensive pillar?
A collision course to a playoff game
If the season ended today, the Bucks and Nets would see each other in the Eastern Conference semifinals if they both came out of the first round.
With the loss, Brooklyn fell to second place through a tiebreaker with the first-place Philadelphia 76ers with seven games remaining on their schedule. With the win, Milwaukee is just 2.5 games back from the No.1 seed in the East with eight games remaining on its schedule.
There’s still plenty of time for the standings to change, but somehow these two teams could be on a collision course for a possible playoff game.
If the Nets stay in second and the Bucks in third, it will be in the Eastern Semifinals. If Milwaukee remains third but Brooklyn passes the No.1 seed in the East, it could potentially be an Eastern Conference Finals reunion with the winner going to the NBA Finals.
Anyway, if a playoff looks like the game we saw today, sign me up.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.