The Whiteboard: Kevin Durant put up a historic performance in Game 5

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images /

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With just over seven minutes left in the third quarter of Game 5, Jrue Holiday found Brook Lopez for a smooth 3-pointer, putting the Bucks up 17 and putting the Brooklyn Nets’ season on the ropes. At that point, the live win probability model at Inpredictable gave the Nets just a 4.9 percent chance of pulling off the comeback. Historically, NBA teams with a 3-2 series lead and homecourt advantage in Game 6 have advanced about 72.3 percent of the time.

The odds were long for the Nets to win two in a row if they dropped Game 5 and even longer for them to dig their way out of a 17-point hole.

Luckily, they have Kevin Durant.

Durant was already working on a masterpiece by the time Lopez hit that 3-pointer. At that point, he’d already racked up 18 points on 10 shots, with 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. But over the next 19 minutes of game time, he scored another 31 points, on just 13 shot attempts, with another 4 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal. His final line — 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 81.6 true shooting percentage. The final score — Nets 114, Bucks 108.

How historic was Kevin Durant’s Game 5 performance?

The answer to the question above is VERY and there are myriad ways to slice it. For example, there have been exactly 250 triple-doubles in NBA playoff history. Durant’s 49 points are the second-highest scoring total anyone has ever put up in a playoff triple-double. The only player who scored more was Russell Westbrook who put up 51 in 2017 in a first-round matchup with the Houston Rockets. However, Westbrook needed 51 true shoot attempts to score all those points, Durant needed just 31. If Durant had used 51 true shot attempts in this game, with the same level of efficiency, he would have scored 83 points.

If we look at the totality of Durant’s statistical contributions, this was one of the greatest playoff performances of all time. Game Score is a single-game metric that includes both positive (points, steals, etc.) and negative (fouls, turnovers, missed shots) factors from the box score. By Game Score, Durant’s Game 5 is the third-best playoff performance since the 1983-84 season, trailing only Damian Lillard’s 55-point Game 5 against the Nuggets in this year’s first round, and Charles Barkley’s 56-14-4 against the Warriors in the first round of the 1994 playoffs.

And even if we set aside all the rebounds and assists and triple-doubling, this would still have been an outlier performance just from a scoring and efficiency perspective. There have only been 160 games in NBA playoff history where a player scored 40 or more points on 25 or fewer shot attempts. Durant’s true shooting percentage in this game was 22nd-best all-time for a 40-point playoff game.

The Brooklyn Nets are now in the driver’s seat

It’s honestly amazing how much the Nets’ fortunes have changed in just the span of a few hours. Durant’s performance got them the win and 538’s NBA prediction model now gives them a 78 percent chance of advancing to the Conference Finals and they’re now the favorites to advanced out of the Eastern Conference. And they’re now staring across the bracket at two serious Western Conference contenders who are suddenly missing stars indefinitely. (More on that below).

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Newest updates from #TodaySucks: Chris Paul has entered the COVID health and safety protocols and is out indefinitely. Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 5 with a knee injury and may be done for the series.

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