After waiting for what felt like forever, Kyrie Irving made his season debut with the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night in Indiana. Initially, it looked like Lance Stephenson was going to spoil Irving’s return, but in the end, Brooklyn escaped with the 129-121 win.
Irving was off to a rocky start at first, but that was expected since he hadn’t played in an NBA game since last June when he injured his ankle. He started and played about five minutes before Patty Mills subbed in for him. Irving’s first bucket didn’t come until the 11-minute mark in the second quarter.
It didn’t take the point guard long to re-establish his role with the Nets, though. Irving finished with 22 points, four assists, three rebounds, and three steals in 32 minutes. He shot 9-of-17 from the floor and knocked down all four of his free throw attempts.
For Brooklyn, having Irving back meant everything. He hit big shots down the stretch to help erase the Pacers’ 19-point lead. Although the Nets didn’t play well in the first half, Wednesday’s game once again proved that Brooklyn’s trio of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden is the best in the game.
Kyrie Irving comes up big in season debut for the Brooklyn Nets.
During the Nets’ first 35 games of the season, their spacing looked off, but that wasn’t the case against Indiana. From the tip, Brooklyn’s spacing was much better with Irving’s presence.
He helps open up shots for his teammates and impacts the flow of the game, in turn making the other players around him better.
Irving said that his debut on Wednesday “meant a little bit more” than his other debuts. He expressed the nerves he was feeling after not playing in a game for so long, along with being away from his teammates for an extended period of time.
For someone that hadn’t played in an NBA game in 206 days, Irving. did better than most would have. He said that while he was away from the Nets, he stayed in shape by playing pickup games, and for him to return and make an immediate impact says a lot about who he is as a player.
Following the win, Irving won’t play again until Monday, Jan. 10 in Portland. In the meantime, he won’t be able to even sit on the sidelines and watch Brooklyn take on Milwaukee and San Antonio in Barclays Center, but he’ll be able to rest and recharge before taking the court for the second time this season.
Just like we all suspected, with Irving’s return, the Nets are now even tougher to beat on the road, and this is only the beginning.