The long wait to see Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving together with a super-deep Nets roster was more than worth it.
They looked like an absolute powerhouse in their season opener Tuesday night at Barclays Center, dominating at both ends of the floor and leading by as much as 38 points on their way to an inspiring 125-99 victory over Durant’s former Golden State team.
Irving led the Nets (1-0) with 26 points, shooting 10-for-16 in a mere 25 minutes. Durant added 22 points in his 25 minutes, Caris LeVert had 20 of the Nets’ 54 bench points, Joe Harris dropped in 10 points, and DeAndre Jordan added 11 rebounds.
Steph Curry topped Golden State with 20 points and rookie James Wiseman added 19, but the Nets held them to 37.4% shooting from the field and 30.3% from three-point range while converting 42.9% of their own three-point attempts (15-for-35).
Durant’s debut was the focal point simply because it was his first regular-season game in 18 months since Achilles tendon surgery. But Irving was limited by injuries to only 20 appearances with the Nets last season, so it really was an important trial run for both superstars, not to mention Steve Nash in his head-coaching debut.
Although he looked as dominant as ever coming off his injury, Durant downplayed the significance of his Nets debut.
"I know it’s a lot of emotions and a lot of things," Durant said. "I got so many calls and texts about playing again. I’ve just got to focus on the first possession and then try to get through that and move on each possession. I try not to make too much of a deal out of this whole thing, and I realize I’ve been playing this game since I was 8 years old. So, just got to revert back to what I know."
Asked how the moment to finally team up with best friend Durant felt to him, Irving betrayed a little more emotion.
"I think it’s been a long time coming, and I’m grateful that we could let our games do the talking, but I’m also grateful that we can have relationships here that matter on the court that help us off the court. That was something that I had with KD that I have with other guys on the team, as well. It’s just more or less our synergy off the floor and now playing on the floor has made a difference."
The Nets’ synergy was off the charts in an explosive opening quarter in which they led by as much as 21 points on their way to a 40-25 start out of the gate.
The Nets maintained a comfortable cushion throughout the second period, taking a 63-45 halftime lead on a deep three-pointer by Irving that gave him 24 first-half points.
Surprisingly for the opener, it was the Nets’ defense that was most impressive.
"I just think we came out with a good plan on the defensive side of the ball, which ignited us on the offensive end," Durant said. "I know everybody’s excited about this new era of the Nets but as players, we just try and take it a day at a time and focus on our jobs."
Certainly, all the Nets’ awesome firepower was on display when they began the third quarter with a 17-4 run, including six points from Spencer Dinwiddie to push their lead to 80-49.
Eventually, the Nets led by 35 points before settling for a 99-71 lead at the end of the period.
Durant and Irving were able to sit out the fourth quarter, during which the lead peaked at 38 points.
"We’re going to enjoy this regular season game to game," Irving said, "but we ultimately know what the goal is after these 72 games, and that’s 16 wins."