Giannis: Kevin Durant 'the Best Player in the World Right Now' After Nets Beat Bucks

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 16, 2021

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, left, clenches his fist next to Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the waning seconds of the Nets' 114-108 victory in Game 5 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo heaped praise on Kevin Durant after KD and the Brooklyn Nets came from behind to beat the Bucks in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series Tuesday.

According to ESPN's Tim Bontemps, Giannis said of Durant: "He's the best player in the world right now."

With Kyrie Irving out injured and James Harden playing at well below 100 percent, Durant took over the game Tuesday, posting a triple-double with 49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and two blocks in a 114-108 win that gave Brooklyn a 3-2 series lead.

The Nets trailed by 16 at halftime, but KD took over and willed Brooklyn to victory despite the team being shorthanded.

It marked a massive and much-needed rebound for Durant, who shot under 40 percent in each of the previous two games—both wins for the Bucks. On Tuesday, Durant shot 69.6 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from deep and 81.3 percent from the free-throw line.

While Irving did not play in Game 5 because of an ankle injury, Durant did get a somewhat unexpected reinforcement in Harden, who had been out since suffering a hamstring injury early in Game 1 of the series.

Harden went from "out" to "doubtful" to "questionable" over the course of the day and went on to play a remarkable 46 minutes. However, he clearly wasn't himself, as he went just 1-of-10 from the field and 0-of-8 from long range, finishing with just five points, eight assists and six rebounds.

With Harden playing nowhere near his usual MVP-caliber level, it was up to Durant to put the team on his shoulders.

Giannis, the 2019 and 2020 MVP, had a great game in his own right, finishing with a team-high 34 points on 14-of-22 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and four assists.

After the game, he was asked about guarding KD in a do-or-die game, to which he told reporters, "I want to take on the challenge."

Durant vs. Giannis was a much-talked-about matchup entering the series.

Durant, the 2014 MVP, is a two-time Finals MVP from his time with the Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, Giannis has yet to push his team past the Eastern Conference Finals, and losing to the Nets in the second round would represent another failure on his playoff resume.

After watching Durant light his team up in Game 5, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer may have no choice but to put Giannis on KD in Thursday's Game 6 and hope he can carry the team both offensively and defensively.