PJ Tucker clings to Kevin Durant every time the two men step onto the hardwood together.
The veteran wing defender makes it his personal mission to try and stop the man he considers the best goalscorer he’s ever seen on a basketball court.
And the key word is “try”.
Durant was out of this world in the absence of Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and James Harden in Game 5 of this compelling Eastern Conference semi-final series, scoring 49 points, catching 17 rebounds and distributing 10 assists.
Tucker accepts that sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop KD. And after the Milwaukee Bucks star made a typically tireless and parasitic change in the Bucks’ 104-89 win that tied the streak and forced a decision maker Thursday night, he spoke at length about what it’s like to face off against. During the court.
“Look, Kevin might be the top scorer of our generation, as he is outside there, ”Tucker said. “He’s a career 30 playoff average (29.4, to be exact), he’s going to score the ball a lot. Everyone knows it. I don’t know why people act like it’s a surprise. It is a daunting task for anyone.
“I don’t think anyone can silence him. But what are you can to do is just try to make it work. You know people are calling – maybe this guy or maybe this guy … it doesn’t matter. He always has an advantage. He’s always going to go on your team and it takes a whole team to keep him.
“The thing is (making sure you) take away from everyone. If you keep him, you focus on him. If you can keep everyone and make them play, make them fight, (then) I think that’s the key because he’s going to score. You’re just trying to make it as difficult as possible, to get him to shoot as many shots as possible to get to that number. “
Durant has consistently recorded a 32-point, 11-rebound double-double in Thursday’s loss, but the Bucks’ tactics have been much more effective in nullifying the Nets – who admittedly have been deprived of James Harden and, of late, of Kyrie Irving due to injuries – since they were blown out in Game 1 and Game 2.
Tucker believes that his teammates allowing him to focus on Durant, and not “over-helping” when guarding him, has been a big factor in the Bucks’ turnaround.
“He’s going to score, you have to take care of that,” Tucker said. “He’s going to hit some crazy shots. He’s going to score a lot. It’s going to happen so much.
“I have to change it. I have to make it look different. I can’t keep it the same every time. I pick it up all over the place sometimes. Sometimes I fight for (the screen), sometimes I ‘trying to go down, sometimes I try to do all I can to try and get any kind of advantage so he doesn’t score but he will. So don’t get frustrated, it’s okay get there you have to go – next game, next game.
“Helping out and doing very little things that people who don’t know basketball would never understand (hurt us). (A) a very small set of things that cost a lot of time in the end.
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“What we can’t do is get frustrated that he’s scoring and people start trying to help. (Then) everyone starts scoring and that’s when that it gets ugly, and that’s when matches 1 and 2 come in. So my job is to keep them ahead, fight as much as I can and make sure no one else has. to help them. So they can stay home on their man. That’s my job.
“We kind of collaborated with the coaches (after Game 1 and Game 2) and found something that we both liked, that we thought we could (execute) in terms of the game plan. feel like Game 3 or 4, we were pretty good, did very well. Game 5, we played well for a half. Obviously changing players halfway and making different things and giving up a ton of points. I think throughout the series every game has been a little different, but I think like we’re getting better with every game. “
The intensity peaks during the playoffs and Durant and Tucker are two of the loudest players in the league, so it’s no surprise that at times it escalates into a full-blown verbal altercation.
But Tucker insists it’s an integral part of the game, and he wouldn’t have done it any other way.
“He’s the playoff man, I don’t know what people think. We’ve dreamed of it our whole lives, like I dream of being in the playoffs keeping the best player in the world. I would die there- down, I’m living my dream I’m not backing down (nothing) I’m fighting for every inch.
“Me and Kevin we beat every year. I have it every year in the playoffs. Golden State, Oklahoma City, whatever – regular season, playoffs… I like to keep it, I like it. It’s the best. goalscorer I’ve never seen in my life. I told Rick Barnes when he visited when (Durant) was in college in high school, “He’s going to be the best player I’ve ever seen in my life. . He killed us’. I knew it was grade 11.
“I exert so much energy to cover it, right, people would never understand how hard it is. I mean, literally every game you have to be on your game because he can score every play. So it’s hard. So I’m doing everything I can.
“He’s my brother. We compete, we fight, every game. We’re going to fight again in Game 7. That’s part of it.”
It will be at the box office, that’s for sure. And you can watch Game 7 live on Sky Sports Arena on Saturday night from 1:30 a.m.