Nets Notes: Kevin Durant Makes Welcome Return
Scores 17 points on perfect shooting in first game since Feb. 13
Halfway through the second quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets were in good shape, working with a nine-point lead. Then Kevin Durant entered the game, and everything took off.
“As soon as he checks in the game, defenses sort of shift their attention,” said Blake Griffin. “Him hitting shots obviously helps but also him not forcing it, I thought he did such a great job of letting the game come to him. It’s easy to try to rush and try to go get it on your own, but he just changed the game for our offense and defense.”
The Nets sprinted away from there, closing the first half with a 13-5 run and continuing into the third quarter with Durant starting the second half, running up a 35-point lead in the third quarter on the way to their 139-111 win over the Pelicans.
In Durant’s first game since Feb. 13, Nets head coach Steve Nash decided to bring him off the bench in order to manage his minutes and keep him available if the game was tight in the fourth quarter. Durant and the Nets made that second part a moot point with their dominant performance.
“I expected to come out here and play the way I played,” said Durant. “I wasn't trying to ease into the game. I just wanted to go out there and dive right into the action. The game was fast-paced already so from watching it from the bench I knew exactly how I needed to approach it. It was pretty cool coming off the bench I can't lie.”
Durant had missed Brooklyn’s last 23 games with a hamstring strain, and had played in only 19 of the Nets’ first 51 games overall.
In his return, he finished with 17 points in 19 minutes, making all five of his shots, including two 3-pointers, and adding seven rebounds and five assists. As always, his impact extended beyond the boxscore to the attention he draws from defenses, and the way the Brooklyn offense flowed around him.
“When I'm getting downhill, when I'm aggressive with the basketball, when I'm making the right play, I feel like I shift the defense,” said Durant, “but if I'm just out there standing and not playing physical and not running to my spots right I feel like I'm just out there. So I just try and make a conscious effort of doing something. Imposing my will in some way. Maybe not just scoring but pushing the tempo rebounding the basketball just getting into the paint I try and do. But I only feel that if I'm playing with force.”
“You have to stay close,” said Nash. “He’s a great shooter, but he’s also 6-11, so if you’re not there on the catch, and even if you are, he might be up and over you. He does put a lot of pressure on the defense. He also obviously can shoot, dribble, pass, finish, shoot at all three levels. He’s gonna put a lot of pressure, he’s gonna create space for his teammates, and he’s gonna make the defense really react and potentially overreact a lot. He makes us quite a lot better, obviously, stating the obvious again.”
In Durant’s absence, the Nets changed. They added Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. Nic Claxton returned from injuries that kept him out for the first two months.
“We've always been in communication about different sets and different actions when I was on the bench and practices and film room,” said Durant. “So I felt like we were learning each other throughout that time and then finally getting on the floor we didn't have to say much. I feel like we know each other's games and we know exactly what to do on each play. So guys have been in constant communication no matter if it's a game or off day and I think it helps.”
The next step is expanding Durant’s minutes after he came off the bench for only the second time in his career.
“Whatever coach throws at me I got to be prepared for and I'm sure he's going to try to toss some curve balls at me to say how I handle it and I'm looking forward to it,” said Durant. “I think a few games of this and I'll be back too probably normal minutes and rotation.”
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