Kevin Durant’s return reignites Nets in rout of Hornets

Kevin Durant came back after being rested, and the Nets got back to looking like a contender. Funny how that works. No, the shorthanded Hornets aren’t of the same stature as the Eastern

Kevin Durant came back after being rested, and the Nets got back to looking like a contender. Funny how that works.

No, the shorthanded Hornets aren’t of the same stature as the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers, which the Nets lost to Wednesday, when Durant and Blake Griffin were held out. Nevertheless, the Nets stormed back from a slow start and ended up blowing out the Hornets 130-115 before 1,773 at Barclays Center.

Joe Harris poured in a team-high 26 points on 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range. Durant added 25 points and 11 assists, while Landry Shamet scored 20 off the bench for the Nets (38-18).

The Nets handed the Hornets (27-28) a fourth straight defeat, shooting 55.3 percent overall and a white-hot 21-for-41 from deep, behind Shamet’s 6-for-11.

Kevin Durant dunks over Hornets forward Jalen McDaniels on Friday.
Corey Sipkin

“I think we have to be confident. I think we know what our goal is — we know what we’re striving for,” general manager Sean Marks said before the game. “I think during the same time, we need to be realistic about it and stay humble, and keep grinding. I mean, this season — as I mentioned before — this has been one where you never quite know what’s around the corner. And right when we think, OK here’s our roster, all of a sudden things change.

“There’s 30 other NBA teams going through very similar things to what we are with the pandemic and everything else. We have to stay flexible. But obviously, I like the roster. I love the talent on the team. Hopefully as soon as we get this group together, playing together and that continuity that [coach] Steve [Nash], and everyone else has talked about, getting them used to each other on the court, yeah, that’ll be key. And the sooner we can do that, the better obviously. And then we’ll see where it goes. You know, obviously, the remainder of the season and into the playoffs.”

As shorthanded as the Nets have been, Charlotte is in dire straits, playing without LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Malik Monk and P.J. Washington.

Miles Bridges had a game-high 33 points for the Hornets and Terry Rozier shook off his knee tendinitis to add 27. But it wasn’t close to enough.

In the Nets’ only home game in a six-game stretch, they came out slow and put up no defensive resistance whatsoever to start, while the Hornets hit 12 of their first 15 shots. Bridges hit a 3-pointer to leave the Nets in a 27-13 hole with 4:56 left in the first, but falling behind by a couple of touchdowns may have woken them up.

When the Nets finally strung together at least a few stops, they turned the game. By the 4:59 mark in the second quarter, they had flipped the script to a four-point lead.

The Nets went on an extended 32-14 run that spanned the first and second quarters. They finally edged ahead 38-37 on a Harris’ 3-pointer, and it was 45-41 after a DeAndre Jordan running dunk.

The Nets held Charlotte to 5-for-23 shooting and four turnovers in that run. It was the only extended defense they played all night, but it was enough.

With the Nets still clinging to a tenuous 94-91 lead early in the fourth quarter, Harris helped blow it open. His four-point play stretched the lead to seven with 11:13 to play, and he got a friendly roll on another 3-pointer to pad it to 101-92.

From there, the Hornets gave up the ghost. The Nets ran away and extended it to 118-99 with 5:35 left on a 3 by Irving (12 points, six assists, four rebounds).

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis

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