- ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010
- Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years
- Author of two books
ATLANTA — Trae Young had just nailed a 3-pointer followed by a trademark slippery layup to cut the Atlanta Hawks’ deficit to one point with just over three minutes to play.
But the next time down the floor, Young watched Kevin Durant crouch in a defensive stance in front of him. Durant’s excellent defense on Young over those last three minutes was key in the Brooklyn Nets’ 113-105 victory over the Atlanta Hawks Friday night.
“Just taking on the matchup was cool,” said Durant, who finished with 31 points. “These small point guards man, they’re so crafty and quick. It’s also fun taking on that matchup, he’s one of the best players in the league.”
The Hawks tried to run actions to get Durant off of Young. But Durant still forced the Hawks’ star into a turnover, then blocked Young’s shot in transition and successfully defended another drive as the Nets finished the game on a 10-3 run.
At one point, Durant slammed into Young as he was setting a screen and was called for a foul. Young went chest-to-chest with Durant before officials stepped in and called double technical fouls.
“I was a little too physical there with that action and I kind of pushed him a bit,” said Durant, who said he’s known Young since the point guard was 10 years old. “He wanted me to get up out of his space and I respect that. Just a part of the game. Nothing personal, it’s all competition.”
Said Young about the moment: “We’re good.” Young had 31 points of his own in the game but was just 2-of-7 shooting in the fourth quarter with two turnovers.
After not playing him in the first half, Nets coach Steve Nash went with Nic Claxton at center instead of LaMarcus Aldridge down the stretch. His length along with Durant and James Johnson stuffed the Hawks, who shot just 6-of-22 and managed just 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Earlier this week, the Nets completed a comeback win in Dallas by holding the Mavericks to just 13 points in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn has now won seven of its last eight road games.
“[Defense provides] ultimate confidence,” said James Harden, who had 20 points and 11 assists. “We’ve been having a lot of ups and downs, a lot of lineups and whatnot. We’ve just been trying to figure it out. It felt really good to just guard.”
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