Sam Amick of The Athletic spoke with scouts about Durant’s struggles in the first two games of the series, with an Eastern Conference scout noting the veteran’s injury-related absences.
“To the credit of the referees, they’re letting them play,” said the scout. “It has looked like ’90s NBA playoff basketball. And then the other element of it to me is Durant. For one, this guy missed a big chunk of the year with that (an MCL injury), (and) he’s probably not 100 percent. He’s not vintage Durant right now. … You can see some regression. How much of that is the missed time and rust and not being in peak form? How much of that is just the natural decline? We are talking about a guy who just missed a year because of an Achilles. All of these things to me start to become cumulative.”
Durant has been tested against a tough Celtics defense during the first two games and has gone just 13-of-41 from the field so far. In addition, he’s committed six turnovers in each of those contests, marking the first time he’s ever had six or more turnovers in consecutive playoff games.
Now 33, Durant has been playing in the NBA since the 2007-08 season, but he has been limited during the past three seasons. Over that span of time, he’s only played in 90 regular season contests and missed the entire 2019-20 campaign because of an Achilles injury.
Looking strictly at Durant’s numbers for the 2021-22 regular season, he doesn’t appear to be in any sort of decline. That’s because in 55 games, he averaged 29.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists.
With the Nets-Celtics series now shifting away from Boston for the next two games, Durant has an excellent opportunity to change any consideration about a perceived decline. If he’s able to do that, the Nets may be able to dig their way out of their current 2-0 deficit in the series.