Kevin Durant shook off 18 months of rust in a matter of minutes.
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 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. It's a new start for Durant, but he did the same things he's been doing for years.
“I tried not to make too big a deal out of this whole thing and realize I’ve been playing this game since I was 8 years old, so just got to revert back to what I know,” Durant said.
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 made the playoffs last season but now are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title after finally getting Durant and Irving on the court together. They used the first game of the shortened, 72-game season to prove they might be worth the hype.
“I think our goals are a lot higher this year and we just want to be able to come in and dominate and do that consistently,” Irving said.
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 3-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 3-pointers 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 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left that made it 63-45.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he was happy for Durant but upset with what he saw from his team, trying to bounce back after winning a league-low 15 games last season.
“Both Kevin and Kyrie just kind of had their way in the first half," he said. "So the lack of physicality and competition were the most disappointing things.”
Durant then scored 10 more in Brooklyn's 36-point third quarter, ending his night for good late in the period.
No. 2 pick James Wiseman started at center despite his limited preparation and had 19 points and six rebounds. But the Warriors, playing without Draymond Green because of a sore right foot, need to find more shooting around Curry with Klay Thompson set to miss a second straight season.
Andrew Wiggins was 4 for 16 for his 13 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. was 3 for 14.
Warriors: Kerr said Green planned an individual workout Tuesday and would hopefully do some group work Wednesday when they remained in New York to practice. ... Wiseman, at 19 years, 266 days, became the third-youngest Golden State player to start a game behind Andris Biedrins (18, 352) and Anthony Randolph (19, 179). ... The Warriors signed Juan Toscano-Anderson, who started six games for them last season, to a two-way contract.
Nets: The Nets snapped a seven-game losing streak in season openers. They are 1-0 for the first time since Nov. 3, 2012, their first game at Barclays Center after moving from New Jersey. ... Brooklyn re-signed G Chris Chiozza to a two-way contract Tuesday. He played in 18 games for the Nets last season. ... The Nets honored the essential workers who have helped New York fight the coronavirus, raising a banner on one end of Barclays Center.
TRAVELING FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Golden State is starting the season on a four-game Eastern road trip, including a Christmas game at Milwaukee. It’s the first time the Warriors began in the Eastern time zone since 1975.
Warriors: Visit Milwaukee on Friday.
Nets: Visit Boston on Friday in what will be Irving's first regular-season game there since leaving the Celtics.