Durant makes winning return to Bay Area
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Kevin Durant made a triumphant return to the San Francisco Bay Area Saturday, scoring 20 points to boost the Brooklyn Nets to a convincing 134-117 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Durant won titles with the Warriors in 2017 and 2018, earning NBA Finals MVP honors each year before suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the 2019 championship series and then departing Golden State for the Nets.
His return came in the new arena in San Francisco that the Warriors moved into last season, where the lack of fans in the stadium made his appearance a more muted affair.
“It was good to see everybody,” said Durant, who had hugs for former teammates Draymond Green and Stephen Curry and Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
“Wish Klay (Thompson) was healthy, but it’s good to be back in the Bay Area. I loved my time here, I loved playing for this team.”
“But I’m glad we got a good ‘W,’” Durant added.
Durant was back on the floor after a week in quarantine because of NBA coronavirus protocols.
Nevertheless, the All-Star forward meshed seamlessly with star teammates Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Nets not only delivering offensively but also shutting down the potentially explosive Warriors offense.
Irving scored 23 points to lead six Nets players in double figures. Harden added 19 with 16 assists and the Nets held the Warriors to 48.9 percent shooting — 26.5 percent from three-point range — in a comfortable win.
Curry, coming off a 40-point performance against the Orlando Magic, led the Warriors with 27 points, making 10 of 17 from the field but just two of nine from three-point range.
After six lead changes in a tight first quarter, the Nets took control, never trailing from the second period on.
“We moved the ball, we had, what 35 assists, 13 turnovers? If we do that every night we put ourselves in a good position to win.”
The Warriors played a video tribute to Durant in the first quarter, and said they’d do more to celebrate his time with the club when he returns again with fans in the arena.
“I think it does mean something to him but he hasn’t shown it,” said Nets coach Steve Nash, who acknowledged that without fans and with nearly two years elapsed, Durant’s return was “a comeback game that is less than what it may have been.”
In Phoenix, Devin Booker scored 36 points to pace the Suns in a 120-111 victory over the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia 76ers.
Chris Paul added 18 points and 10 assists and the Phoenix bench delivered 56 points as the Suns won their fifth straight and their eighth in nine games.
The Suns shot 60.8 percent from the field, leaving Sixers coach Doc Rivers to bemoan his team’s defensive breakdowns — especially when the reserve unit was on the floor.
“It’s funny, the first eight minutes, I thought defensively, were pretty good, and then right when we went to the bench is when our defense struggled,” Rivers said.
Center Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 35 points. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris added 18 apiece.
“I think overall, we didn’t get back in transition,” Simmons said. “That’s where it started. They shot 61 percent which is too high. We had our run, we got the lead, and then we let it go, we didn’t execute on offense late game.”