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Kyrie Irving leaves Nets' preseason win over Lakers in China after aggravating facial fracture

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) speaks to

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) speaks to the press during Nets training camp in Brooklyn on Oct. 1, 2019. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Kyrie Irving flew halfway around the world to play for 66 seconds.

Irving aggravated his facial fracture shortly after tip-off in his preseason debut for the Nets, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-111, in the debut of this year's two-game NBA China Games series on Thursday in Shanghai.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who replaced Irving, led the Nets with 20 points and Taurean Prince finished with 18.

LeBron James scored 20 points for the Lakers, who got 18 from Rajon Rondo and 16 from Anthony Davis.

The game itself was normal, unlike the rest of the trip to China.

The game was played after several events to promote the NBA's annual appearance in China were called off. It was part of the rift between China's government and the league — started by a since-deleted tweet from Houston general manager Daryl Morey that supported anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

The U.S. and Chinese national anthems were not played before the game. All media events Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Arena — including pregame availabilities, postgame news conferences and a long-scheduled media session with NBA commissioner Adam Silver — were canceled.

The Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it was not going to show the Lakers-Nets games on Thursday or in Shenzhen on Saturday. NBA broadcast partner Tencent also said it was changing its coverage plans for the league.

But fans came in droves, nearly every seat in the 18,000-seat arena appeared filled and they cheered for James loudest of all — as usual. James has made almost-annual visits to China during his NBA career to promote the game and his personal brand, and his popularity there is enormous.

Given fan reaction to James there this week, including being mobbed by well-wishers who chanted and snapped countless pictures with their phones as he walked through a Shanghai mall on Wednesday, not even the politically charged unrest between China and the NBA could dampen how revered he is in the world's most populous country.

It was a topic again in Tokyo on Thursday, where Houston and Toronto finished their two-game series. The Rockets, of course, have been at the forefront of the rift between China and the league because of Morey's tweet.

"You know what? It's a tough situation," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said after Houston's 118-111 win over the reigning NBA champion Raptors. "Very difficult. Adam Silver speaks for the NBA. I work for the NBA. I go with Adam. Commissioner Silver will do the right thing."

Irving tried to play through his left-side facial fracture, an injury that occurred in a pickup game last month. He was wearing a clear mask in an effort to protect his face, but bumped into Rondo while playing defense just 1:06 into the contest.

Irving's face made contact with Rondo's upper arm. The Nets guard immediately winced in pain, took the mask off and motioned to the bench that he needed a substitute.

If that wasn't concern enough, the Nets lost their other starting guard just 22 seconds later. Caris LeVert left with 10:32 remaining in the first quarter after being poked in the eye and didn't return.

James made 7 of 15 shots, including 2 of 3 from three-point range and added six rebounds in 24 1/2 minutes.

New York Sports