The Brooklyn Nets waited 18 months for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to play a meaningful game together.
It was dazzling, if not predictable, basketball.
Irving scored 26 points in 25 minutes, including 17 in the first quarter and 24 in the first half. Durant had 10 points in the first five minutes of the game and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes.
That’s what you get when you pair two gifted offensive players who pressure the defense with their ability to score from all spots in the half court.
In the first game of what will be an unusual 2020-21 NBA season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nets drilled the Golden State Warriors, 125-99.
The Nets are an offensive power. Yes, just one game. But it’s not an overreaction based on a small sample size or unknowns. Durant and Irving are All-Stars.
Joe Harris (10 points), Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert (20 points and prime Sixth Man of the Year potential), Jarrett Allen, Landry Shamet, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green and Taurean Prince have proven what they can do in the NBA. It is a deep roster.
Then, add first-year coach Steve Nash, the two-time MVP who was an on-court driving force of one of the most innovative offenses of his era with the Phoenix Suns. And one of his assistant coaches is Mike D’Antoni who coached Nash in Phoenix and helped turn James Harden into an offensive force.
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Kevin Durant dunks against the Warriors in the NBA's 2020-21 season opener. (Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)
Brooklyn scored 40 points in the first quarter and had 77 with eight minutes left in the quarter and reached 100 early in the fourth. Granted, it was against the undermanned and developing Warriors. But points are points against paid professionals.
The Nets won’t score 40 points in a quarter every game, but they’re capable of it. Irving and Durant can break down defenses when they’re not on the court together. When they are, the defense is left in compromised positions especially with other capable scorers around them.
Irving and Durant wanted to play together, signing with the Nets in free agency in the summer of 2019. But they knew they wouldn’t play together last season as Durant rehabbed an Achilles injury sustained in the Finals against Toronto when he played for the Warriors.
Irving played in just 20 games last season, ending his season on Feb. 1.
As smooth as ever, Kevin Durant knocks down the 3 for his first points with the Nets! 👌
By the time a truncated training camp rolled around for this season, Durant and Irving were ready. They showed some of what they could do in the preseason and then unveiled for more to see in the season opener on TNT.
They are friends off the court and that rapport is obvious on the court. At one point in the first quarter, Irving and Durant were a combined 9-for-13 shooting for 22 of Brooklyn’s 28 points.
Cavs star Kevin Love, watching on TV, tweeted, “Not even a quarter in and damn…KD and Kyrie gonna be something special to watch this year.”
Not even a quarter in and damn…KD and Kyrie gonna be something special to watch this year
Durant said he’s not 100%, but that might be splitting percentage points. He made his first three shots with his soft jumper and baseline drives. It takes great effort to make it look so effortless, and it won’t be long before he returns to the All-NBA discussion.
Irving scored in his usual ways of jump shots and creativity near the rim using his great footwork, dribbling and shot making. Irving has made just two All-NBA teams. The league is deep with guards but a third could be in his future.
Good luck to the rest of the league slowing that offense.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.
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