There’s a No. 1 overall pick every NBA season, but there’s only ever going to be one Kevin Durant.
It was the first matchup between Durant — the No. 2 overall pick out of Texas in 2007 — and Paolo Banchero, the highly-touted first overall pick out of Duke this past summer. Durant showed Banchero just how far he has to go hanging 45 points to lead the Nets to a 109-102 victory over the Magic on Monday.
“He just keeps doing it. At this stage, and age of his career, to come, the minutes he played, what he did last night, to lead us into a win, is huge,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I think it shows the preparation that he puts into his body. I don’t know if, what he feels about the game. He approaches it like, we have to win this game. He led us tonight. Unbelievable effort. Took a lot out of him, but he’ll recharge and be able to do it another day from here.”
The Nets (11-11) are back to .500 for the first time since they were 1-1.
Monday’s game between the Nets and Magic looked a lot like varsity against a JV squad.
In this instance, the JV does not stand for Jacque Vaughn.
Durant lapped the Magic individually, doing most of his damage straight out of the halftime break. He scored 19 of his 45 points in the third quarter alone, taking control of the game shortly after shoving scrappy Magic guard Najee Harris off him due to his physical defense.
“Teammates setting great screens for me,” Durant said after the game. “The paint was opened up because we were spaced out properly. I just had to knock down shots and I did that.”
It was a season-high scoring night for Durant, who only hit four free throws and three threes on the night. YES Network analyst and ex-Net Richard Jefferson said it best:
“He’s just bucketing them to death,” Jefferson said.
And he gave it to Banchero on the other end. The presumptive Rookie of the Year frontrunner (though Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin may have some thoughts) scored 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the field, but struggled to score when blanketed by the Nets star.
On one defensive possession, officials bailed Banchero out of a tough turnaround fading jump shot with a foul call. On the very next defensive possession, when Banchero went to a similar move, Durant forced a travel.
It was Orlando’s breakout star Bol Bol who stole the show early. The 7-2 Bol — son of NBA legend Manute Bol — scored 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field. His unique playing style — a lanky ball handler with a three-point stroke — shined at Barclays Center. Bol went coast to coast to finish at the rim around Kyrie Irving with an and-one layup. He also hit a pull-up three right over Royce O’Neale to make it a five-point game late in the fourth.
The Nets found a way to win without continuing their hot shooting streak.
They only shot 9-of-28 from deep and recorded just 20 assists, bucking a recent trend of assists leading to three-pointers made.
On some nights, the rest of the team can take a day off, because Durant has the ability to put a team on his back.
An ability Banchero could have one day if he puts in the work that’s earned Durant the title of one of the Top 75 players in NBA history.
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