NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 21 points in 20 minutes of an easy return from a two-month absence with an injured right shoulder, leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 108-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
Irving shot 10 for 11 from the field after missing 26 games with an impingement. The shoulder looked fine and his handle looked as good as ever while he dribbled his way around a hopeless Atlanta defense.
— NBA (@NBA) January 13, 2020
Energized by his return that still seemed a ways away just a week ago, the Nets led by 39 points and won their second straight after dropping seven in a row.
Taurean Prince scored 14 points for the Nets, who made it such an easy night that their fans didn’t need to worry about the scoreboard as they roared for Vince Carter’s two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The 42-year-old former Nets star finished with eight points in his final road appearance against the franchise.
Irving began feeling pain in his shoulder early in the season, and he took himself out of the lineup after a game in Denver on Nov. 14. The Nets held up well without him for a while thanks mostly to Spencer Dinwiddie’s strong play, but had faltered recently and struggled especially in crunch time.
Irving got a cortisone shot on Dec. 24, revealing last weekend his options were that or surgery. He gave no indication then he was close to returning, but participated fully in practice this week.
He started alongside Dinwiddie to share the playmaking responsibilities and did most of his scoring near the basket, making the only 3-pointer he attempted. The Nets were already leading 70-46 at halftime before he went 5 for 5 for 10 points in a dazzling six-minute stretch of the third quarter.