NEW YORK — Ahead of the Nets’ season opener against the Warriors, Golden State coach Steve Kerr sat down to watch some film of his former player, Kevin Durant. He pulled up Brooklyn’s preseason game against Boston and took in Durant’s first competitive games since tearing his Achilles in June of 2019.
“I didn’t know what to expect given that it’s been really a year and a half since his last game,” Kerr said. “But I could not tell one difference between seeing him 18 months ago and seeing him the other night.”
Durant has stayed away from making any sweeping edicts, but on Tuesday, Kerr got a front row seat to Durant’s dominance, as he put up 22 points in a 125-99 victory against his former team.
And this time, it wasn’t a preseason warmup.
Durant splashed in mid-range jumpers over Andrew Wiggins, elevated for one-handed slams, threaded the ball through defenders to find DeAndre Jordan at the rim and splashed in threes. While he wasn’t on a minute restriction, head coach Steve Nash said before the game that he would be “thoughtful” with Durant’s playing time. He ended up out on the floor for 25 minutes.
Along with his scoring, Durant added five rebounds, three assists and three steals. He shot 7-of-16 from the field and never missed from the free throw line.
With Durant and Kyrie Irving leading the way, Brooklyn picked up steam quickly. The Nets jumped out to an early 18-18 lead early in the first quarter after Kevin Durant soared toward the basket and delivered an authoritative dunk. He racked up a quick ten points in the first quarter, while Irving — who hasn’t played competitive basketball since February after injuring his shoulder — led the team with an early 17 points.
Irving — who nailed nearly impossibly deep three-pointers and showcased his flashy, signature ball handling — finished with a team-high 26 points in 25 minutes of playing time. Neither Durant, nor Irving played in the fourth quarter.
As Durant made his way to the bench at the end of the third quarter – his night complete – he high fived every teammate and coach, weaving from the first row of folding chairs to his seat in the seat row, grinning. He stared up at the scoreboard, as if taking in his the numbers behind his return that were displayed on the jumbotron, and pulled his grey warm up shirt over his head.
With Irving by his side, the star duo watched as their teammates added to Brooklyn’s lead. At one point in the fourth, they were up by more than 30. Durant clapped and doled out high fives, the next step of his comeback complete.