Kevin Durant looked good as new against his old team, Kyrie Irving was even better and the Brooklyn Nets emphatically kicked off the Steve Nash era with a 125-99 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night in the NBA’s season opener.
Durant shook off 18 months of rust in a matter of moments and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes of his first official game since rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Irving led Brooklyn with 26 points and Caris LeVert scored 20 as the Nets led by as many as 38, pouring on the points the way the Phoenix Suns did when Nash was their point guard, or more recently Golden State did when Durant was their All-Star forward.
The Nets are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title after finally getting Durant and Irving on the court together and they used the first game of the shortened, 72-game season to prove they might be worth the hype.
Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists for the Warriors, a depleted team that looks nothing like the powerhouse that won two titles in Durant’s three seasons there.
Durant left shortly after having surgery following his injury and was expected to sit out the entire 2019-20 season even before it was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teammates who have worked out with him said the four-time scoring champion was back in top form and Durant quickly backed up their boasts in a mostly empty Barclays Center.
He made his first three shots, one a three-pointer and another while being fouled, and was in double figures in fewer than five minutes. He did everything but keep up with Irving, who made three triples and had 17 points in 9 1/2 minutes of the opening quarter, when the Nets led by as many as 21.
Irving, himself coming back from injury after playing just 20 games last season because of shoulder problems, had Brooklyn’s last two baskets of the first half, including a deep three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left that made it 63-45.
Andrew Wiggins was 4 for 16 for his 13 points.
Lakers get rings, but fall to Clippers
Paul George scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half, Kawhi Leonard added 26 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied past the Los Angeles Lakers on the NBA champions’ ring ceremony night for a 116-109 victory.
George went 13 of 18 with five three-pointers in an outstanding first game since agreeing to add four years and $190 million US to his contract with the Clippers, who never trailed in the latest meeting of Southern California’s two NBA powerhouses. The Clippers beat the Lakers in the season opener for the second straight year while winning coach Tyronn Lue’s debut.
LeBron James scored 22 points and Anthony Davis had 18 for the Lakers just 72 days after they finished off the Miami Heat in the NBA bubble.
The Lakers returned from the shortest off-season in league history and received their championship rings honouring the franchise’s 17th title, but they couldn’t keep up with George and Leonard down the stretch.
The pregame ceremony was brief and strange without cheering fans, but the 11 returning players eagerly picked up their massive new pieces of jewelry. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss promised to hold another celebration when fans are allowed back into games.
Serge Ibaka scored 15 points in his debut for the Clippers, who hadn’t played since blowing a 3-1 playoff series lead to Denver and ruining a much-anticipated conference final showdown with the waiting Lakers in the bubble.