Golden State opened the scoring, but an early two-point advantage would be the only Warriors lead of the night. At the end of the first, the Net lead was 20 with no signs of slowing. It didn’t take long for the game to be put out of reach in the second half.
The Nets went on to win their opener, 125-99, powered by 20-point showings by both stars. Durant put the league back on watch with 22 points, looking just as good as ever. Only Irving scored more, leading the game with 26 in the emphatic win.
Two days later on Christmas Day, the Nets again put on a show, this time against Boston. Irving, who missed all four games against the Celtics last year, dominated in his return to Boston.
A tight contest went into the half with the Celtics ahead one, but Nets stars got back to business with massive third and fourth quarters to power the Nets to another insurmountable lead for a second big win.
Irving’s 37 points led the NBA in the five-game Christmas slate, and Brooklyn looked unstoppable. Shots fell from every inch of the court as the Nets hit almost 50 percent of their field goal attempts, while holding opponents to 37.5 percent in their opening two games.
Despite the big wins, the Nets were sloppy at times, coughing up the ball far too often. ATurnovers would again plague the Nets in Charlotte. New Hornet Gordon Hayward matched his early season high in points, tallying a game-leading 28. Terry Rozier put in 19, including a big dunk over Durant.
The Hornets began to create some separation in the final quarter, opening up a 16-point lead with just under eight minutes left. With their backs to the wall, the Nets looked to finish strong, chopping the lead down to just two in the final seconds.
The comeback was not quite enough, as a Durant jumper rattled out of the rim on a chance to tie, and Rozier free-throws sealed the Nets’ first loss.
To make matters worse, the Nets were hit with a rough injury early in the new season. After a drive to the basket in the third, Spencer Dinwiddie hit the ground clutching his knee, confirmed to be a partial ACL tear.
It’s likely upcoming surgery will end the guard’s season, with no timetable for his return. Still, having recovered from a devastating ACL injury in college, the crafty guard is certain he’ll make a strong comeback.
A quick turnaround saw Brooklyn return to action the next night, returning home to host the Memphis Grizzlies. Durant and Irving were both listed as out, resting up after 36 minutes each in Charlotte.
The depleted roster got off to an abysmal start, unable to stay on the same page and coughing up turnovers with careless play. An early 20-9 deficit sent a message, as Brooklyn had to chase the game from the start.
The offense began to click in the second quarter, with the Nets taking a one-point lead heading into the break.
Again, a bad injury halted play, with Memphis’ Ja Morant spraining his ankle after contesting a shot by Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot late in the second. Morant hopped off the court before exiting in a wheelchair, but returned to cheer on his teammates while wearing a protective boot.
A hard-fought second half saw teams trade leads with no significant advantage. Back-and-forth action continued to the end of regulation, with the game level at 106.
Overtime highlighted a big issue that impacted the Nets offense all night as they continued to struggle early. Steve Nash’s coaching plan seemed entirely built around the superstars, leaving stand-in starters ill-equipped and the offense often improvised, shooting just 40 percent against Charlotte and Memphis.
Brooklyn was still able to cut an overtime deficit to two with eight seconds left. Unable to find Caris LeVert on an inbound play, the ball went to Joe Harris. The sharpshooter’s contested three-pointer came up short, and just like the night before free throws sealed a heartbreaking loss.
After the electric start, the bitter losses bring up a lot of questions about this Nets team. Despite the superstar talent, depth and longevity will be crucial to the team’s success. The early test of the roster’s depth may worry some, but there’s plenty of time for Brooklyn to find their groove.