‘Explosive’ Durant scores 15 in 1st preseason game with Nets

Kevin Durant still can score in bunches.

The four-time NBA scoring champion returned from a lengthy injury absence to score 15 points in his debut with the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night.

Durant ruptured the Achilles tendon in his right leg during the 2019 NBA Finals. He left the Golden State Warriors after that season and joined the Nets, but he missed the entire 2019-20 season while recovering, delaying his chance to play with close friend Kyrie Irving.

Durant played just under 24 minutes as Brooklyn beat the Washington Wizards 119-114 in its preseason opener.

“It felt great to be back in the routine and be back on the floor and feel like a player again,” Durant said. “It felt great. Everybody’s texting and calling and asking me how I’m feeling. I can’t wait until that’s over with so I can get back in the swing of things and just feel like one of the guys again.”

Durant looked confident as he donned No. 7 instead of the familiar No. 35 he had worn for Oklahoma City and Golden State. His first basket on Sunday was a driving two-handed dunk.

“It’s one thing to come back,” said Steve Nash, the Nets’ new coach. “It’s another thing to come back and look as explosive and mobile and skillful as he has after a long layoff. I’m incredibly proud of him.”

Durant and Irving played the first nine minutes, 27 seconds of the game together. Durant scored 11 points on 3-for-3 shooting during that stretch while Irving scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting to help the Nets take a 30-18 lead.

Late in the first half, Irving threw a long pass to Durant, whose reverse layup gave the Nets a 58-35 lead. Brooklyn’s largest lead was 26 points in the second quarter.

Irving finished with 18 points in just over 17 minutes in his own return, having been limited to 20 games last season because of a shoulder injury.

“That’s one of the perks of this position, is you get to coach two incredible players,” Nash said. “Ky was super sharp and Kevin, after such an extensive layoff was very good and close to being incredible.“

The Nets shot 63.9% in the first half to take a 68-50 lead at the break.

Durant played about six minutes in the second half and Irving didn’t play at all. The Wizards took advantage and even took the lead briefly in the fourth quarter before Brooklyn regained control late.

Durant said he felt good after the game, but he wouldn’t say he was back to his old self.

“I can’t tell after one preseason game,” he said. “I felt good. I want to play at the highest level of basketball, the highest intensity of basketball, and it’s not in the preseason. But it’s a good first step.”

Russell Westbrook did not play in what would have been his debut for the Wizards after being traded in a deal that sent John Wall to Houston. Bradley Beal also rested for Washington.

Rui Hachimura scored 18 points and Raul Neto added 17 for Washington. Deni Avdija, the ninth overall pick in the 2020 draft, scored 15 points for the Wizards.

There are six more games Monday.

Sunday’s games:

LAKERS 131, CLIPPERS 106

At Los Angeles, the defending champion Lakers rolled while LeBron James and Anthony Davis rested.

Talen Horton-Tucker had 33 points and 10 rebounds, and Kyle Kuzma added 25 points for the Lakers. New Laker Montrezl Harell had 19 points and 11 rebounds against his former team.

Lou Williams led the Clippers with 12 points and Kawhi Leonard added 11 points in just under 18 minutes.

The Lakers also beat the Clippers on Friday.

HAWKS 116, MAGIC 107

At Atlanta, Trae Young scored 21 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic added 18 as the Hawks got their first preseason win.

Danilo Gallinari scored 17 points and De’Andre Hunter added 15 for Atlanta, which made 17 3-pointers. Young and Bogdanovic each made four 3s.

Markelle Fultz scored 21 points and rookie Cole Anthony added 16 for the Magic. Aaron Gordon scored 15 points and Nikola Vucevic had 14 for Orlando.

The Magic defeated the Hawks 116-112 in Atlanta on Friday.

PISTONS 99, KNICKS 91

At Detroit, Sekou Doumbouya scored 23 points to help the Pistons notch their first preseason win.

Doumbouya, the 19-year-old forward who averaged 6.4 points last season, made 8 of 11 shots.

Derrick Rose scored 11 points and Blake Griffin added 10 for the Pistons.

RJ Barrett scored 25 points and Julius Randle had 18 for the Knicks.

Alec Burks finished with 15 points for New York, which defeated the Pistons on Friday.

BULLS 104, ROCKETS 91

At Chicago, Zach LaVine scored 23 points and Coby White added 20 as Billy Donovan got his first preseason coaching win with the Bulls. Donovan led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the playoffs last season.

John Wall scored 21 points for the Rockets, who shot just 34.5%. DeMarcus Cousins scored 10 points in just over 17 minutes.

The Rockets beat the Bulls by 21 on Friday.

KINGS 121, TRAIL BLAZERS 106

At Portland, Richaun Holmes and Kyle Guy scored 14 points apiece to lead eight Sacramento players in double figures.

De’Aaron Fox added 13 points for Sacramento.

Harry Giles had 19 points and 13 rebounds for Portland. Gary Trent Jr. scored 17 points, Derrick Jones Jr. scored 15 and CJ McCollum added 13 for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard scored just three points and only took three shots in limited action.

Portland won by 25 when the teams met on Friday.

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