Kyrie Irving’s much-anticipated NBA return didn’t start off very well, as his first quarter performance saw him miss two shots and commit two turnovers while dishing an assist and grabbing a steal.
In the early goings, he was overshadowed by Lance Stephenson, who set a record for the Indiana Pacers. His 20 points in the first quarter was the most ever for a Pacer.
Honestly, you can’t script this shit. Stephenson went on to make his first four shots on his way to scoring 20 points in the first quarter. He hit 4 of 5 three pointers including a buzzer beater to end the quarter.
Lance did a little bit of everything, and even broke his previous Pacer career high of 28 points. He ended the game with 30 points, 3 rebounds, and 5 assists much to the delight of the home crowd.
Unfortunately, for all of his first quarter heroics, Indiana as a whole simply ran out of gas. They blew what was at one point a 19-point third quarter lead and ended up losing 129-121.
Sure, the Pacers had played the night before, which certainly didn’t help them. But the Brooklyn Nets deserve credit for taking the game back when they could have just packed it in and said let’s focus on the next game.
Irving wasn’t the best player on the floor, finishing with 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block. That honor belongs to Kevin Durant, who finished with 39 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and a steal while shooting 15 of 24 from the field. KD was nigh-unstoppable in the second half, where he scored 23 points.
However, Irving’s mere presence on the floor showed how dangerous the Nets are when their big three are together.
James Harden had 18 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, which may not have been enough if it was just him and Durant on the floor, but now the Nets finally had someone else to pick up the slack.
Irving scored 8 points in the second quarter to help prevent the Pacers from blowing the game out of reach early on. Because of that, Kevin Durant was able to get a good rest, allowing him to conserve enough energy to enter Slim Reaper mode in the second half.
As Durant started to catch fire in the third and fourth quarters, Irving and Harden’s mere presence essentially prevented the Pacers from throwing everything at KD.
The three-star system shined and you could tell the difference between the Nets and Pacers toward the end of the game. When the Pacers had given up the lead and were desperate to get back in the game, the Nets went into a “let everyone but Domantas Sabonis beat us” mode, throwing double and triple teams at him in the paint, especially in the final six minutes of the game.
The end result was that Sabonis was basically frozen out of the game, and the Pacers’ offense followed suit as they were outscored 35-20 in the final period.
Today’s win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Nets, who had both Harden and Durant on the court during the skid. It’s a strong reminder that when together, Irving, Durant, and Harden may be the greatest offensive trio in league history. It’s almost impossible to stop all three of them in a game.
The tough thing for the Nets is the fact that Irving remains a part-time player. He’s still banned from playing home games due to New York’s vaccine mandate, so he won’t even suit up again until next week. That means that unless things change, the Nets are going to be in the unenviable position of being handicapped by home court advantage.
As of now, they’ll just be happy with snapping their skid and seeing Irving play a big part in winning his first game back.