The Brooklyn Nets came through with a huge victory against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, as they beat the second-best team record-wise 128-119 to help them build a 1.5 game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Here are some takeaways from the game:
Let KD Go To Work
Kevin Durant came off the bench after a three-game absence, but if you looked at the final box score, you wouldn’t have known either to be true, as he finished with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists.
33 points in 28 minutes. Yep, @KDTrey5 is back.
📼 HIGHLIGHTS 📼 pic.twitter.com/iwimZexF83
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) April 26, 2021
Durant entered the game with eight minutes left in the second quarter, but he scored nine key points for the Nets to help prevent the Suns, who led by as many as 13 points in the period, completely run away with the game early.
Nine points isn’t exactly lighting it up, but his presence alone still attracted the attention of the Suns’ defense, especially in these situations below.
In this video, you’ll notice two Suns defenders just on the other side of the half-court line waiting to guard Durant but that allowed Blake Griffin to receive the pass ahead of the break for the hook shot. When Durant is bringing up the ball, you have to keep your eyes on him.
With Kyrie Irving holding on to the ball up top, two Suns defenders are focused on denying Durant the ball, which opens up Green to sneak to the left corner off the ball. Irving smartly recognizes an open Green, so he swings it to him. Green takes advantage of those two Suns defenders scrambling to get over to him as he drives to the rim for the thunderous dunk.
Durant ultimately helped the Nets pull away in the fourth, as he put up five quick points to give the Nets a 10 point lead within the first minute of the frame and then inflicted even more damage with another five points to give Brooklyn a 16 point lead at the 7:25 mark. When Durant gets into a groove, you just can’t stop him.
Blake Griffin Continues To Thrive
Blake Griffin put up a well-rounded stat line of 16 points, five rebounds and four assists, but it’s becoming more and more apparent that he’s the glue that keeps this team together.
“His IQ is through the roof,” Durant said of Griffin.
Durant is absolutely spot on in that assessment. Let’s take a look at these couple of situations.
First, Griffin deflected the ball for the steal, and then took it down the court all by himself and maintained control of the ball despite a pesky Chris Paul poking at the ball and then no look passed it to Joe Harris cutting to the basket for the transition layup. Griffin plays the small-ball center in many sets, so for a team that loves to push in transition, having Griffin’s skillset is going to make this team even scarier. It’s not normal for a 6-foot-9 player to be able to handle and distribute the ball the way Griffin does.
KD receives the dribble handoff from Griffin up top, but Griffin stays in the play but cutting to the rim and shielding off Jevon Carter to give Durant the easy lane to the rim. Little things like that make a huge difference.
Kyrie The Post Man
Kyrie Irving is a dominant scorer. There’s no question about that. As a guard, he gets most of his offense on pull-up jumpers and drives to the basket, but an underrated part of his game is his ability to score on post-ups, as he generates 1.35 points per possession on those attempts this season, which puts him in the 100th percentile.
You notice on that play Chris Paul, who is one of the premier defensive guards in the league, is squared up on Irving and denying him an easy lane to the basket.
However, Irving wisely slows it down and backs him down into the post, and with Paul still being able to maintain his ground, Irving breaks free off the pivot and goes lefty off the glass.
On this play, Irving takes Jevon Carter, who isn’t a slouch defensively himself, to the rim and backs him down, as Carter does a decent job of sticking with him. However, Irving knows just the right angle to get his shot off to hit the turnaround jumper.
Irving can kill opposing defenses in other different ways as previously mentioned, but his high IQ gives him the presence of mind to read great post-up opportunities to beat elite defenders and convert those looks at an extremely high rate. Good luck trying to stop this guy.