basketball

Durant or Duncan; Let the Discussion Begin

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The greatest power forward in NBA history is Tim Duncan. Right?

Five NBA titles; three NBA Finals MVP trophies; two NBA MVP awards; a 15-time All-Star.

There’s really no competition: Dirk Nowitzki? One title; one NBA Finals MVP trophy; a 14-time All-Star. Impressive, but really not even close.

Karl Malone? Two NBA MVP trophies; a 14-time All-Star. No titles. Next.

Yes, there’s Duncan and there’s, pause, Kevin Durant.

Durant?

If you saw the first quarter of Game 2 of the much-hyped (and so far, utterly non-competitive) series between the Nets and Bucks won by Brooklyn, 125-86, then you saw Durant do things no man almost seven-feet tall has ever done:

Crossover dribbles that left guards flailing for a Durant limb. Sliding bounce passes off the pick and roll that had the Bucks on a defensive merry-go-round to nowhere. Hitting threes. Driving to the basket. Pulling up for mid-range jumpers. Rebounding. Defending.

One reverse layup through the heart of the Milwaukee defense that made the score, 95-65 after three quarters. The Nets led by as much as 49. Yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists) played.

“We just did what we’re supposed to do,” Durant said to TNT sideline reporter Jared Greenberg.

Durant finished with 32 points in 33 minutes. He was 12-of-18 from the field with four rebounds and six assists.

And best of all? Everything Durant did he did with a joie de vivre the Bucks haven’t known since they arrived in Brooklyn.

Durant’s uplifting spirit, perhaps as much as his spectacular play – has been the difference in these first two games between the No.2-seed Nets and No.3-seed Bucks. The Nets, even after losing James Harden just 43 seconds into Game 1, have played with a harmony that most acapella groups would envy and lead, 2-0.

The series heads to Milwaukee for Game 3 Thursday night, giving the Bucks a few days to conduct a treasure hunt with the prize being the swagger and offensive efficiency they displayed in sweeping the Heat.

Durant was aided by Kyrie Irving, who had 22 points, five rebounds and six assists. And Blake Griffin, who declined to dunk in Detroit, had two Richter scale throw downs that could be felt in Manhattan. He finished with seven points and eight rebounds.

If the Nets continue to play as they have in their first-round playoff win over Boston and the first two games of this series, then they will win their first NBA title.

And if KD continues to play as he has, he will claim his third NBA title and third Finals MVP trophy. He also has one NBA MVP award and is an 11-time All Star. He is 32 and is fully recovered from the Achilles tendon tear he suffered in the 2019 Finals.

When asked if he thought he’d return to this level, Durant had a testy response.

“Is that a real question?” Durant asked Greenberg. “That was two years ago.”

The 6-foot-11 Duncan played with a methodical, fundamental brilliance. Durant, at 6-10, handles the ball and passes like no power forward in history.

Let the discussion begin.

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