The Brooklyn Nets got one of their All-Stars back in the mix, even as another one rests.
Kevin Durant came off the bench in Brooklyn's 139-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and it proved to be something of a triumphant return. The former two-time Finals MVP was greeted with cheers from the limited Nets crowd before hitting his first shot from mid-range.
He shot a perfect 5-for-5 for the field, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, having not played since February 13 because of a strained left hamstring.
"I expected to come out here and play the way I played," Durant said after Wednesday's game. "I wasn't trying to ease into the game."
Coach Steve Nash said bringing Durant off the bench was so the Nets could more easily control his minutes if the game was close down the stretch.
"We got dominated at both ends of the floor. Totally dominated," Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We couldn't get out to the 3-point line. Our defense was absurd. They totally dominated us."
Durant got an ovation from the first home crowd he'd played in front of with the Nets. Barclays Center only began allowing limited crowds on February 23.
Durant played as a reserve for only the second time in his career - both in his last two home games.
He wasn't able to start on February 5 against Toronto in what was his 867th game while the NBA reviewed an inconclusive coronavirus test result of someone Durant had interacted with that afternoon. He was later cleared to enter, then forced to leave again in the third quarter.
In a video released by the team before Wednesday's game, Durant talked about his work to rehabilitate from his injury and being ready to play.
"The last month or so, it's just been me working out every day, playing here and there with my teammates," Durant said. "It's good to get a few of those sessions in before I went and jump into an NBA game. It's been too long for me... I'm just excited to get back out there."
Entering Wednesday, the Nets have only had their star trio of Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in the same line-up for seven games (5-2) this season, but are currently No. 1 in the Eastern Conference at 36-16. Durant is averaging 29.0 points 7.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game for the Nets this season.
Harden will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 days after an MRI revealed a strained right hamstring, the team announced on Tuesday.
Harden originally sustained the injury on March 31 against the Houston Rockets but appeared to reaggravate the hamstring in his return against the New York Knicks on Monday.