Kevin Durant’s long awaited Brooklyn Nets debut didn’t disappoint Tuesday, the two-time NBA Finals MVP teaming seamlessly with Kyrie Irving in a 125-99 opening day blowout over the Golden State Warriors.
Durant hadn’t played since suffering a devastating torn Achilles tendon playing for the Warriors against Toronto in game five of the championship series on June 10, 2019.
He was still recovering from surgery when he bolted for the Nets as a free agent and sat out all of the pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 campaign.
Irving scored 26 points with four rebounds and four assists. Durant added 22 points with five rebounds and three assists and all of the Nets starters sat out the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
“It felt good,” Durant said. “I didn’t approach it any different. The pre-season games I kind of felt the same energy, but it’s good to get a win.”
The win also gave two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash a victory in his first game as a head coach.
Canada’s Nash was a surprise pick for the Nets job after five years as player development coordinator for the Warriors.
The contest at Barclays Center in Brooklyn was the first of two on Tuesday.
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who wrapped up their 17th title with a victory over the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals little more than two months ago, tipped off later at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers.
- Shorter season -
It’s the start of a shortened 72-game season – 10 fewer than usual for each team.
With Covid-19 still rampant in the United States, the NBA had yet to fill in the fixtures for the second half of the campaign, allowing flexibility in case of postponements and cancellations.
“When you’re playing outside a bubble, it’s almost impossible to avoid this virus,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged Tuesday.
However, he was hopeful that a vigorous testing program would allow the league to spot those infected in time to separate them from teammates and prevent major outbreaks.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we have to postpone or reschedule games,” Silver said. “I believe in the protocols we have in place, but I think until we see what the rhythm of the season is we aren’t going to know how effective it is.”
The Warriors, who struggled last season and weren’t among the teams to resume play in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, were playing their first game since March.
Stephen Curry, who played just five games last season before suffering a broken hand, scored 20 points on seven of 27 shooting.
James Wiseman, second overall pick in the draft last month, got the start at center, despite missing the Warriors’ three pre-season games after testing positive for coronavirus prior to training camp.
The towering 19-year-old rookie threw down a two-handed dunk in the opening moments and finished with 19 points and six rebounds.
But with Draymond Green absent with a foot injury, the Warriors offered little resistance early on. They trailed by as many as 21 in the first quarter – a deficit that swelled to as many as 38 in the fourth quarter.