It was Kevin Durant’s Bay Area homecoming, but he had to share the spotlight with Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the other two members of the Nets’ Big 3. They put together a dominant all-around performance in a 134-117 victory over Golden State to begin a five-game West Coast road trip Saturday night at Chase Center in San Francisco.
Asked after the game about his return to the scene where he won two NBA titles before leaving in free agency, Durant said, "It felt good, good to see everybody, good to be back in the Bay Area. I loved playing with this team."
As for the Nets’ performance, Durant said, "We moved the basketball. We had 35 assists and only 13 turnovers. If we do that every night, we’ll be in good position."
During the third period, the Nets’ lead reached a high of 28 points, but Golden State opened the fourth quarter with a 17-10 surge to cut its deficit to 19 with Durant and Irving on the bench. They returned at that point.
Irving put on a show, hitting a three-pointer and following with two driving layups, the last of which turned into a three-point play to restore a 126-102 lead. Golden State simply could not match the Nets’ firepower down the stretch.
Irving led six players in double figures for the Nets (16-12) with 23 points. Durant had 20 points, five rebounds and six assists and Harden totaled 19 points, 16 assists and eight rebounds. Bruce Brown had 18 points and seven rebounds.
Steph Curry topped Golden State (14-13) with 27 points but was held to 2-for-9 three-point shooting. Golden State hit only 26.5% from deep (9-for-34).
Golden State honored Durant with a video tribute during the first timeout in the opening quarter, but a spokesman said the franchise plans a more elaborate tribute when the Nets visit next season and fans are expected back in the building.
"The tribute video was cool," Durant said. "I think about those moments daily. My time here in Golden State was so much fun, such a big learning experience . . . I’m going to take that with me for the rest of my life. I’m always replaying those moments in my head."
Now the goal is to create a new set of memories with the Nets, and the seventh game with the Big 3 playing together was a step in the right direction.
The Nets played great first-half defense in particular and put together three extended runs — 15-2 in the first quarter, 28-15 in the second and 30-15 in the third, which pushed them ahead 98-70. The Nets hit 13 of 15 shots in that stretch and scored 42 points in the period to take a 108-82 lead to the final quarter.
The hope for the Nets’ Big 3 is that they can use the West Coast trip as an opportunity to bond and build chemistry and consistency. When the triumvirate was formed a month ago with the Harden trade, they all agreed sacrifices would be necessary, and that is exactly what has happened.
Asked to comment on Harden’s brilliant playmaking, Irving made a stunning revelation.
"I feel like he’s doing a great job of managing the point guard role," he said. "We established that maybe four days ago now. I just looked at him and I said, ‘You’re the point guard and I’m going to play shooting guard.’ That was as simple as that.
"So he’s been taking control of the responsibilities and doing an incredible job. It just makes my job easier to just go out and play free and just make plays. It’s a luxury. I just want to continue it."