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Kevin Durant got dropped — and then he downed the Jazz


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NEW YORK — Mike Conley didn't say a word. He was smart enough not to.

Yes, his slight shoulder shake and ball fake sent Kevin Durant stumbling to the ground in the second quarter on Monday. No, he wasn't about to boast to the Brooklyn Nets superstar. Conley has been around far too long and seen far too many superstar responses to even consider that.

Heck, Conley made it a point to not even look at Durant after he sent him to the floor and buried a floater.

"I made sure not to look him in the face," Conley said. "I didn't say anything about it. I just kept running. I'm not that dumb."

Turns out, Durant didn't need him to say anything. Conley's nifty move that put the Jazz up by 6, woke up a sleeping giant. Durant immediately led a 17-3 run that spanned the second and third quarters to pull the Nets away for good.

Durant had 37 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as the Nets beat the Jazz 114-106 Monday at Barclays Center.

"Don't talk to him. I don't know why people talk to him," Nets guard Bruce Brown said of the apparent trash talk directed at Durant. "Don't get him going."

The Jazz say they didn't talk; Durant got going anyway.

Durant led the Nets to a 38-point third quarter where the team pulled away from the Jazz. It was a quarter that Quin Snyder called the "perfect storm." Utah's offense grew stagnant and the ball movement was halted — some of it to the credit of the Nets, some of it to the Jazz's own doing. The other part of the storm? Durant.

He scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting and handed out three assists in the third quarter alone.

"He made a run on his own just based off of our lapse and our strategy; he took advantage of that," said Rudy Gay, who had 9 points and three rebounds. "That's what great players do. He made us pay."

The Jazz threw different looks at Durant to try and slow him down a little, they tried to double him, they put their bigs on him, and tried to take his teammates away; he beat it all. Gay said it felt like he scored 20 points straight at one point.

"He's 7 feet, shooting over our bigs, shooting over double teams," said Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 30 points. "And at some point in time, there's no game plan for shooting over double teams. We did a bunch of different things. We tried to tire him out, but he made the right plays."

The Durant blitzkrieg wasn't unexpected by any means. Since Durant returned on March 13, he has averaged 30 points per game and Brooklyn has had the No. 1 offense in the league. And, like everyone else in the league, the Jazz don't have a natural defender to put on Durant.

Royce O'Neale did an admiral job of staying in front of Durant, but the height advantage was too great; and Durant's eyes lit up each time a Jazz big switched onto him.

"I think he's one of the greatest scorers of all time — all you gotta do is pick up the box score and then look how efficient he is," Snyder said before the game. "That's what makes him so unique. The thing that makes it even more difficult is that after he's made five in a row, and everybody wants you to do something — and you have to do something — you have to try to go double team. That's almost worse because he's so willing to give up the ball to let his teammates score."

Translation: When he's on, there's not a lot you can do. Durant was 15 of 23 from the field and Brooklyn shot 54% as a team. The Nets led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter before a late Utah push.

The Jazz were able to cut Brooklyn's lead to 6 with 57 seconds left in the game on an 18-4 run, but the team ran out of time. And that only served to remind them of the things they didn't do earlier in the game.

"Guys were all over the place and guys we're finding people, we were getting to the free-throw line," Conley said of the late run. "And we have to have that kind of energy and urgency earlier in the game."

If they had, maybe the big Nets' run would have been nipped in the bud. Or maybe Conley just shouldn't have dropped Durant with a move to the basket.

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