It was a scary Wednesday night in Brooklyn.
The return of Kevin Durant featured a Brooklyn blowout, as the Nets defeated the Pelicans, 139-111. With the win, the Nets take sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the East and improve to 36-16 on the season.
“I thought the overall team performance was really strong,” Nash said postgame. “The attention to detail defensively was there and proud of the guys for the effort.”
The story of the game was Durant, who returned to the hardwood after missing 23 games ... and one quarter.
The Nets superstar, who came off the bench in the second quarter, showed not a tinge of rust. Durant got a loud ovation from the Barclays Center crowd as he entered. It was the first time since signing with the team in July 2019 that he had played in front of Nets fans at Barclays Center. KD finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes. He shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from deep and to make things even sweeter, Durant took a charge on Zion Williamson that’s likely to make every highlight reel Wednesday night. It was proof that he had no hesitation taking contact.
“It was nice to have him back. It’s been a long absence no one predicted even when it first happened. We’re just thrilled that he felt good, played well and he’s back. To see that smile on his face was important to me as well,” Nash said. “Thrilled for him. Loves the game more than anything and he needs to be out there playing.”
“I thought he was very, very good,” Griffin said on Durant’s return. “After missing two months and looking that comfortable, it’s crazy.”
From one superstar to another. Kyrie Irving, filling in for the injured James Harden at the point, put up another all-around game, finishing with 24 points, six assists and two rebounds in 30 minutes of play. His biggest play of the game took place in the first when he took flight with a two-handed baseline slam followed by a point to his family in the front row while hanging from the rim.
It was family night for the two stars. Wanda Pratt, KD’s mother (“the real MVP” as Durant called her back in 2014) sat courtside for her son’s re-debut.
LaMarcus Aldridge also had himself a strong outing on both ends in the win. Aldridge finished the win with 22 points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 23 minutes. The 6’11” big shot 8-of-12 from the field and 2-of-2 from deep.
Griffin finished with 10 points in 13 minutes, but the numbers didn’t tell the story. This did...
Brooklyn had seven of their 12 active players finish in double-figures and as a team, the Nets shot 55.4 percent overall and 46.3 percent from deep. DeAndre Jordan was the only active Net not to play in the blowout win. It was DJ’s fourth DNP-CD.
The Pelicans, who played the second game of a back-to-back, were led by Eric Bledsoe - who was ejected in the loss after picking up two technical fouls. Bledsoe scored 26 points in 29 minutes followed by Williamson with 16 points in 23 minutes. New Orleans falls to 22-29 on the season, dropping to 10th in the Western Conference standings.
It was clear the Nets had their hands full protecting the paint from the opening tip. New Orleans utilized their size advantage early focusing their offensive attack down low and snagging offensive rebounds but Brooklyn responded.
The pace was high in the opening minutes as both teams were putting up the points on the board early. With 5:08 remaining, Irving drove up the baseline and dunked over two Pelicans, making sure he pointed to his family in attendance to put the Nets up 21-16.
Brooklyn didn’t record a single turnover in the first, scoring a total of 36 points topped off by a 30-foot three from Griffin at the buzzer to put the Nets up three heading into the second.
The Nets carried over the momentum in the second on the back of Griffin, who winded back the clock with a tomahawk slam and his second three, forging a quick 11-6 run and made their first eight shots.
The moment Nets and their fans have been patiently waiting for occurred with 7:37 remaining in the first. Durant took the court to join Irving, Harris, Griffin, and Aldridge to a standing ovation - draining his first shot from the elbow and finishing the second with nine points in eight minutes on 2-of-2 shooting from the field.
It was all Brooklyn for the remainder of the second, putting up 79 points - a season-high in any half this season and the third most points scored by the Nets in franchise history. To make things even sweeter, the 43 second-quarter points match a season-high for any quarter this season.
Brooklyn hit the break with a commanding 20-point lead (79-59). Irving was one of three Nets in double-figures at the break but paved the way in Brooklyn’s big first half scoring 20 points, five assists and two rebounds in 18 minutes. Aldridge had a good first half, posting 14 points, two rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes followed by Griffin with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field in 11 minutes off the bench.
The Nets offensive onslaught continued in the third while the Pelicans were distraught defensively. Brooklyn quickly expanded their lead to 26, leaving Stan Van Gundy to call a timeout with 6:52 remaining in the third. Brooklyn went on to end the third with 115 points - tied for the second-most points through three quarters in franchise history.
“When we move our bodies and we move the basketball the way we did, and when we talk on defense, it’s fun out there,” said Kevin Durant about the tremendous third quarter run. “You’ve got veteran players that know how to play. It feels like these guys can finish my sentence before I can finish. It was pretty smooth.”
Brooklyn held a dominant lead throughout the final 12 minutes of play with both teams pulling their starters in the early minutes of the fourth to finish the contest.
By the time the buzzer sounded, the Nets get ready squad had racked up big minutes. Chris Chiozza finished with 12 points in 18 minutes, Reggie Perry six points in seven minutes; and Alize Johnson, another six points in 20,
Now, let us check out some film.
The Film Room
Putting on our best Scarface voices (if you know, you know)...
Guess who’s bizzack?
Kevin Durant made his return to the Barclays multicolor flooring and immediately canned a 15-footer off a baseline pin-down, the crux of KD’s offensive package since he entered the league. It’s his signature move — an off-ball action that is primally ran for guards and sharp-shooting wings. You don’t see too many 7-footers with the fluidity to knock down shots off motion while spinning into fadeaway shots. Durant is an exception to that rule.
Three minutes later, Durant pushed the break and finished perhaps one of this snappiest drives of the season, fitted with a nifty deceleration into a sudden burst right past the outstretched arms of Willy Hernangomez, taken aback by Durant’s zip in the full-court.
Later, he and Nicolas Claxton connected for an all-length pick-and-roll, which was frankly pretty bewildering to watch seeing that two seven-footers were connecting for a half-court set. In the third, he and LaMarcus Aldridge connected on some “Chicago action,” with Durant streaking off a pin-down, receiving the ball via a dribble-handoff from Aldridge, and then tossing an oop to the fellow Texas album. Wait, when did this team get so dang big?
So much for small-ball!
Not long after the Nets announced their starting lineup Wednesday night, things changed. Kevin Durant, who had been listed among the starters, was suddenly pulled. There reports he was limbering up on the sidelines. Panic ensued. Was he not going to play??
As it turned out, the Nets wanted to better take advantage of his minutes restrictions and Steve Nash called on him in the second quarter. Whew. It was only the second time his career —and second time this season — that KD didn’t start. The first time was February 5, the last time he played at Barclays when he couldn’t start because of uncertainty re his exposure to someone who had tested positive for COVID. He was later pulled from that game and placed in health and safety protocols.
As Sponge Bob might say...
Per Will Hanley.
- Box Score: Brooklyn Nets 139, New Orleans Pelicans 111 - NBA.com
- Game Highlights: Brooklyn Nets 139, New Orleans 111 (Video) - NBA.com
- Highlights: Kevin Durant 17 points, 7 rebounds (Video) - NBA.com
- Highlights: Kyrie Irving 24 points (Video) - NBA.com
- Highlights: LaMarcus Aldridge 22 points (Video) - NBA.com
- LaMarcus Aldridge on ball movement in big win over Pelicans (Video) - YES Network
- Kevin Durant discusses how he is feeling after win over Pelicans (Video) - YES Network
- Steve Nash on Kevin Durant’s return, victory over Pelicans (Video) - YES Network
- Blake Griffin on Kevin Durant’s performance (Video) - YES Network
- Wear Brooklyn At? (Video) - YES Network
- Durant’s perfect return fuels Nets’ 139-111 rout of Pelicans - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Kevin Durant returns as Nets destroy Pelicans - Larry Fleisher - Reuters
- Nets pummel Pelicans in Kevin Durant’s return - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Steve Nash admits obvious about Nets’ Big 3 issue: ‘not ideal’ - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Listen to Episode 16 of ‘Fullcourt on Flatbush’: Harden Goes Down, KD on Mend feat. Eddie Jordan - Jake Brown - New York Post
- Nets romp over Pelicans in Kevin Durant’s return from 23-game absence - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- James Harden might be league’s MVP but Kevin Durant is the Nets’ - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kevin Durant reintroduces himself in perfect fashion as Nets blow out Pelicans - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant perfect from field in return, fuels rout of Pelicans - Nick Friedell - ESPN
- Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving And Zion Williamson Finally Took The Floor Together — Just Not With Knicks - Mike Mazzeo - Forbes Sports Money
- Nets’ Kevin Durant scores 17 points in return from hamstring injury: ‘I wasn’t trying to ease into the game’ - Alex Smith - SNY
- Nets shouldn’t worry about Big Three’s lack of shared playing time, says ex-NBA head coach - Ian Begley - SNY
- GAME GRADES: Durant’s Return Highlights Nets’ Blowout Win Over Pelicans - Elizabeth Swinton - The Brooklyn Game
- NETS 139, PELICANS 111: KEVIN DURANT RETURNS IN A BROOKLYN ROUT - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- NETS NOTES: KEVIN DURANT MAKES WELCOME RETURN - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- NETS VS. PELICANS: KEVIN DURANT, BLAKE GRIFFIN, AND STEVE NASH TOP QUOTES - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- GALLERY: NETS VS. PELICANS - Brooklyn Nets
- Zion’s streak of 20-point games comes to end as Pelicans get whacked by Nets - Christian Clark - New Orleans Times-Picayune