Nets pummel Pelicans in Kevin Durant’s return

Nets pummel Pelicans in Kevin Durant's return

After missing almost two months, Kevin Durant was back. And he was brilliant.

And victorious.

Durant’s return from a hamstring injury lifted the Nets to another level in a 139-111 rout of the Pelicans before 1,773 at Barclays Center. The victory boosted the Nets (36-16) into first place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game ahead of the 76ers.

As James Harden watched from the bench with a hamstring strain, Durant came back after missing 23 straight games with his own hamstring strain. Wednesday was his first action since Feb. 13 at Golden State, and his first game as a Net in front of Brooklyn’s fans.

Durant missed last season recovering from a ruptured Achilles, and COVID-19 forced the Nets to start this season without fans in Barclays Center. The fans’ first taste of their star player was a sweet one. Durant had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists (and was a plus-17) in just 19 minutes off the bench. He also had six turnovers.

“I expected to come out here and play the way I played. I wasn’t trying to ease into the game. I just wanted to go out there and dive right into the action,” Durant said. “It was also good to play in front of the fans as well.”

Kevin Durant, who scored 17 points in his return to the lineup, shoots over James Johnson during the Nets' 139-111 blowout win over the Pelicans.
Kevin Durant, who scored 17 points in his return to the lineup, shoots over James Johnson during the Nets’ 139-111 blowout win over the Pelicans.
Corey Sipkin

Kyrie Irving had 24 points and six assists, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points. But Durant was perfect from the floor (5-for-5), from beyond the 3-point arc (2-for-2) and from the charity stripe (5-for-5). In true MVP fashion, he opened up the game for everybody else.

Coach Steve Nash brought him off the bench to manage his minutes, in case the game was close. He needn’t have worried, the way the Nets blew out New Orleans. The Nets shot 55.4 percent, were 19-for-41 from deep and led by as many as 38 points.


“Everyone’s excited to see him, what a big piece of our team he is. And he’s one of the all-time greats, so for our guys to see him back out there was definitely exciting, gave them a boost,” Nash said. “We’ve had a lot of that this year, guys in and out. So it was nice to have him back.

“It’s been a long absence that no one predicted, even when it first happened. So we’re just thrilled that he felt good, he played well, and he’s back. And to see that smile on his face was important for me as well. So, just thrilled for him. He loves the game more than anything, and he needs to be out there playing.”

By the time Durant took off his warmups and strode to the scorer’s table in the second quarter, the Nets were already in control. When he checked in with 7:37 left in the half — to a loud roar — they led 53-44.

Durant hit a turnaround off an Irving feed to put the Nets up 58-46 with 6:42 left in the half, sending them off to the races.

From the time Durant checked in until halftime, the Nets hit 8 of 12 shots to close the half on a 26-15 run.


“When we move our bodies and we move the basketball the way we did and we talk on defense it’s fun out there,” Durant said. “You have veteran players that know how to play and it feels like these guys can finish my sentence before I even finish. So these guys know the game inside out.”

By the time he sat back down with 4:46 left in the third, the Nets had put together an extended 48-30 run that spanned intermission. They shot a misprint-like 17-for-22 with Durant on the floor during that extended offensive assault.

“You could see I think that’s there’s lots of potential there. It’s not hard to play basketball with Kevin Durant. He’s gonna make guys better,” Nash said.

“After missing two months and then coming back and looking that comfortable, it’s just crazy,” Blake Griffin said. “But in terms of playing with him, players like that, some of the guys we have, they just make the game easy.”

The Nets opened their lead up to 120-82 early in the fourth on a 3 by Chris Chiozza, and the rest of the game was garbage time.


About the author


Donald Langer

Donald is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional cricket and football matches. He is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. He currently caters his skills for the sports section of The Madison Leader Gazette.

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