After almost two months, since February 13, without stepping on an NBA court; as a substitute, obviously rare in his career (second time in 869 games, both this season), and with his mother in a stand with a limited audience but standing, Kevin Durant returned to play. His loss has been a cloud in the happy horizon of Brooklyn Nets, a team that still does not have the big three on the track (only seven games together) because James Harden is now missing. But one whose key to being unstoppable, and as good as Harden and Kyrie Irving are (who they are) is KD, the great assassin, the alpha male. With Durant back, as a substitute and with a minute restriction, New Orleans Pelicans went through the shredder (139-111) of a team that has dangers in sight and pending issues, like everyone else, but whose ceiling seems impossible to imagine.
Problems have come to the Pelicans when they tried to hold on to the Western play-in zone, a new qualifying framework that allows teams like this one to hide the damage that At 22-29 he is far from the respectable level he was aiming to achieve this year, the second without Anthony Davis. Still without Brandon Ingram and again (not the first or the second) with a terrible lack of defensive identity and no ability to stop the opponent’s triples (tricky against this opponent), Stan Van Gundy himself acknowledged after that they basically stopped try after a first quarter from which they came out alive (36-33). The part of the second was 43-26 for a 79-59 when passing through the dressing room. So 11/18 on 3s for the Nets, 3/12 for the Pelicans. In the end, 19/41 and 6/27. Zion Williamson stayed at 16 points with a 4/12 in shooting, without playing in the fourth quarter, and left his streak of games at 25 with at least 20 points and 50% in shooting (he did not reach either of the two things ). The same as Shaquille O’Neal, the one who accumulated the most since the arrival of the shot clock. Willy Hernangómez, who continues to play less than Jaxson Hayes, spent 17 minutes on the court and finished with 6 points and 7 rebounds. Eric Bledsoe had 26 points and was sent off in the second half. When there was no longer a trace of the party.
Durant, that was the story, did not start and did not play in the first quarter. He appeared in the second, 7:50 from the break and 53-44 on the scoreboard. He played less than 20 minutes and finished with a +22 and without missing a shot: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists (6 losses as the only mole) and a series of 5/5 in shots (2/2 in triples) and 5/5 in free throws. With him on the track, the Nets attack put one more gear, the one that no other team in the League seems to have. He is the only one with already ten games of at least 130 points. There are too many threats to opposing defenses, too many players to worry about, too much lack of troops against what is accumulating in front, against what demands to stop an engine that (even without Harden) players like KD or Kyrie Irving throw, In 30 minutes he finished with 24 points and 6 assists.
What’s more, LaMarcus Aldridge shone with points (22 and 8/12 shooting) and positional intelligence in an ecosystem of exceptional ball circulation., a breakneck pace that makes Steve Nash’s team indefensible and useful to physical players like Jeff Green and Bruce Brown. Also to Blake Griffin (10 points), who has five dunks in seven games in his new jersey as a gift to talkers in Detroit. Joe Harris scored 14 points and the Nets, with Durant back, are 36-16 and give the feeling that, and not only because the big three still cannot share the track, the best is yet to come. And it’s going to be very, very good. They are very starry nights in Brooklyn. Good times.