The Nets welcomed back Kyrie Irving with a win on Sunday night.
Brooklyn was lifted by a 39-point third quarter on their way to a 127-115 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at Barclays Center in Irving’s first game back since Nov. 1. The Nets tied a season-high for points in a single quarter as they erased a 62-57 deficit to open it up the second half.
“The message that halftime was definitely we can be better,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “There were a few clips that we show just overall just a lack of concentration on the defensive end of the floor. Let them close, but I think we went on a 20-5 run the end of the third into the fourth, so refocus and came away with a win.”
It was Ben Simmons and Royce O’Neale who put up a combined 24 points in the third and Kevin Durant and Irving each came up with timely baskets. It was the Nets’ superstar that tied the game at 67 with a pull-up jumper and was fouled on the play to give him the and-1 to put Brooklyn ahead by one.
A driving layup by Irving extended the Brooklyn lead to three and a Simmons tip dunk extended it to five with 8:24 remaining in the third. The Grizzlies chipped away and tied the game with 2:36 left in the quarter, but Durant put up six straight points to extend the lead again and after Memphis pulled within one, Yuta Watanabe hit a running finger roll layup to end the quarter with the Nets ahead 96-93.
Brooklyn blew the game open with Watanabe leading the charge in the fourth quarter. The Nets went on an 18-5 run to start the fourth, which was highlighted by four three-pointers by Watanabe that electrified Barclays Center.
Joe Harris hit a three-pointer with 4:46 left in the game to put the Nets up 123-104, which was their largest of the night.
The game was expected to be a win for the Nets as the Grizzlies came into the night missing several of their top players, but they managed to hang around and led after the end of two quarters. However, it turned into Simmons’ best game of the year as he put up a season-high 22 points and shot 11-of-13 from the field.
“You want to feel good, you want your body to feel good. You want to be in a good space and sometimes when you haven’t played for a while and you have an ache or your body isn’t feeling the way you want it to, It affects you. It’s great to see him move beyond that right now,” Vaughn said about Simmons.
In his first game back, Irving had 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting and he went 2-of-5 from beyond the arc. It marked the first time that Irving had been in the lineup since a loss to the Chicago Bulls at the beginning of the month.
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Irving was given a rousing ovation during player introductions from the Barclays Center crowd and a loud cheer erupted when he knocked down his first shot of the game in the first quarter. Chats of “KYRIE” emanated from the stands when he took a free throw later in the game.
The Nets star had been suspended earlier in the month and had been cleared to return earlier in the day after he publically apologized for his actions during the controversy.
Felt good. Felt good,” Irving said about being back on the floor. “Just miss my teammates, miss the coaching staff, you know, just getting prepared with them in the morning. … Then carry over to the game, it felt good.”