Which superstar can you trust most in Game 7?
This is normally a question reserved for LeBron James and whoever he is battling. The Eastern Conference semifinal Game 7 matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night creates a different dynamic, however.
Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden have combined for four NBA MVP awards. Kyrie Irving’s status remains in doubt because of an ankle injury. With a chance to make the Eastern Conference finals in a postseason where LeBron is gone, which superstar faces the most pressure? Which franchise?
SN breaks down the past Game 7 performances of all four superstars to find an answer.
Kevin Durant in Game 7
- Stats: 33.3 ppg., 55.4 FG%, 53.1% 3P%, 7.2 rpg., 3.0 apg in four games
Durant has played in four Game 7’s in his career, and his teams are 3-1 in those games. Three of those games were with Oklahoma City. The Thunder beat the Grizzlies in the first round in 2014 and the Western Conference semifinals in 2015. The most-remembered Game 7 was a loss to Golden State in 2016, which led to Durant signing with the Warriors. Durant also led Golden State past Houston in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals in 2018. This is his first Game 7 with Brooklyn.
James Harden in Game 7
- Stats: 24.2 ppg., 39.2% FG%, 24.3% 3P%, 5.0 rpg.,5.2 apg in four games
Harden has also played in four Game 7’s in his career, and his teams are 3-1. The Rockets lost to the Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference finals, a game in which Harden had 32 points but shot 2 of 13 from 3-point range. Harden played with Durant in Oklahoma City against Memphis in 2015, and he led the Rockets to victories against the Clippers in the Western Conference semis in 2015 and the Thunder in the first round in 2020. Harden is dealing with a hamstring injury, and that limited his effectiveness against Milwaukee in Games 5 and 6.
Kyrie Irving in Game 7
- Stats: 26 ppg., 43.5% FG%, 40.0 3P%, 6.0 rpg., 1.0 apg in one game
Irving hit the memorable 3-pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals against Golden State in 2016. That gave the Cavaliers a NBA championship, but it’s the only Game 7 that Irving has played in. He missed a pair of Game 7’s in the 2018 NBA playoffs when he was with the Celtics against the Bucks and Cavaliers, and he could miss Game 7 against the Bucks again because of an ankle sprain.
Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 7
- Stats: 22 ppg., 41.2% FG%, 25.0 3P%, 9.0 rpg, 5.0 apg in one game
Antetokounmpo has played in just one Game 7; a first-round loss to Boston in 2018. The two-time MVP is looking for his second trip to the Eastern Conference finals in six seasons, and he is coming off a 30-point, 17-rebound performance in Game 6.
Which star has the most on the line?
Harden and Irving get excused from this conversation because both are dealing with injuries. It comes down to Durant and Antetokounmpo.
Both superstars have been prolific in the series. Durant is averaging 33.3 points and 10.8 rebounds, and Antetokounmpo is at 30.5 points and 12.8 rebounds. Durant won Game 5 with a spectacular 49-point effort. Antetokounmpo won Game 6.
Durant, however, has been there, done that. If Antetokounmpo can top Durant in this game, then that long-awaited breakthrough to the NBA Finals will be possible.
There is more pressure on Giannis here.
Which franchise has the most on the line?
The Bucks have only made the Eastern Conference Finals twice since 1986, and the franchise won its last NBA championship in 1971. Milwaukee is 2-8 in Game 7’s.
The Nets made back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002-03, and they won a pair of ABA championships in 1974-76. The franchise is 1-2 all time in Game 7 situations.
Giannis might be feeling the pressure with the Bucks, but the Super Team model has more pressure in this game. If the Nets can’t break through with Durant, Harden and Irving, then what will the fallout be in 2021-22? The injuries are a significant factor, but in a pick ‘em situation, the home team should win.