Kevin Durant scored 32 points in three quarters and the Brooklyn Nets didn't miss a beat without James Harden, cruising to a 125-86 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday in game two of the Eastern Conference semifinals in New York.
The second-seeded Nets lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 ahead of game three on Thursday in Milwaukee. Brooklyn, which never trailed, led by as many as 49 points in the fourth quarter. The Nets led by double digits for the final 39:11.
In 33 minutes, Durant shot 12-of-18 from the field and posted his fourth 30-point game of the post-season. He also hit four three-pointers, grabbed four rebounds and handed out six assists.
Durant finished his latest productive game by going around Giannis Antetokounmpo for a reverse layup with 4.8 seconds left in the third quarter to give Brooklyn a 95-65 lead.
Kyrie Irving added 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting and had six assists for the Nets, who shot 52.1 per cent and set a franchise post-season record with 21 three-pointers. It marked the fourth time in their first seven post-season games the Nets shot at least 50 per cent from the floor.
Antetokounmpo led the third-seeded Bucks with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He shot 8-of-15 from the floor and missed five-of-seven free-throw attempts. He is shooting 53.5 per cent (23-of-43) from the foul line in the post-season.
Milwaukee's Khris Middleton added 17 points but missed his first eight shots, finished 8-of-20 from the floor and committed five turnovers. Jrue Holiday was held to 13 points.
The Bucks shot 44 per cent and misfired on 19-of-27 three-point tries after shooting 6-of-30 from behind the arc in game one.
Harden watched from the bench after being ruled out due to right hamstring tightness. He was injured 43 seconds into Brooklyn's 115-107 win in the series opener on Saturday. Without Harden, the Nets dominated early and cruised to their fifth double-digit win of the post-season.
Durant scored 21 as the Nets led by as many as 27 points before half-time and took a 65-41 edge into the break. He made 7-of-10 shots prior to intermission, including a three-pointer with two seconds left in the first quarter that put the Nets up 36-19 after the opening 12 minutes.
- Suns take over in third quarter, win opener against Nuggets -
Chris Paul scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and also contributed 11 assists and six rebounds to help the Phoenix Suns record a 122-105 victory over the visiting Denver Nuggets in the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals.
Mikal Bridges scored 23 points, Devin Booker notched 21 points and eight assists and Deandre Ayton contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns. Phoenix outscored Denver 59-33 over the final 19 minutes, 34 seconds.
Nikola Jokic registered 22 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots for the third-seeded Nuggets. Aaron Gordon scored 18 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 15 points, Facundo Campazzo tallied 14 points and JaMychal Green had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Denver.
Game two will be on Wednesday night, also in Phoenix. Jae Crowder added 14 points for the Suns, who shot 54.1 per cent from the field, including 13-of-34 (38.2 per cent) from three-point range. The Nuggets connected on 46.7 per cent of their shots and were 14-of-40 (35 per cent) from behind the arc.
Denver held a 72-63 lead after two free throws by Austin Rivers with 7:34 left in the third quarter before the Suns exploded for 16 straight points en route to controlling the remainder of the contest.
Ayton's three-point play put Phoenix ahead at 74-72 with 4:26 left in the third before Booker nailed a three-pointer and Bridges added a basket to complete the run and give the Suns a seven-point lead. Porter knocked down a three-pointer with 3:22 left in the quarter to end a Denver scoring drought of 4:12.
The Nuggets were again within four later in the stanza before Phoenix rattled off 11 consecutive points. Ayton's dunk and Bridges' three-pointer gave the Suns an 88-79 lead entering the fourth quarter before Dario Saric scored a basket and Paul knocked down back-to-back jumpers to make it 94-79 with 10:27 left in the contest.
Paul Millsap scored in the interior with 10 minutes left to halt the Phoenix run. However, the Suns kept the heat on as Paul converted a three-point play and a three-pointer and Cameron Payne fed an alley-oop to Torrey Craig for a ferocious dunk that increased the Phoenix lead to 102-84 with 8:36 left.
Crowder later knocked down a three-pointer to make it 114-97 with 3:34 left, and Booker added a jumper 26 seconds later to end any suspense. The Suns' lead topped out at 20 points. Jokic had 15 first-half points as the Nuggets held a 58-57 lead at the break.