NEW YORK — Kevin Durant returned from a 23-game absence to spark Brooklyn’s most explosive half of the season, finishing with 17 points and perfect shooting in the Nets’ 139-111 rout of the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Durant came off the bench with about 7 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter and by the time the period ended the Nets had 79 points and a 20-point halftime lead. Brooklyn was a sizzling 14 for 18 (78%) in its 43-point quarter.
Durant went 5 for 5 and added seven rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes in his return from a strained left hamstring. He was originally listed in the starting lineup, but was removed in a revised lineup distributed minutes before his first game since Feb. 13.
The All-Star forward got an ovation from the first home crowd he’d played in front of with the Nets. Barclays Center only began allowing limited crowds on Feb. 23.
Eric Bledsoe scored 26 points for the Pelicans before being ejected in the third quarter.
Zion Williamson had just 16 on 4-for-12 shooting, ending his streak of 25 straight games with 20 points and 50% shooting. That tied Shaquille O’Neal for the longest such streak since 1954-55, when the shot clock debuted.
A night after surrendering 46 points in the third quarter of a loss to Atlanta, the Pelicans’ defenseless period came sooner.
Brooklyn led 36-33 after Blake Griffin’s long 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first quarter. The lead had grown to 53-44 by the time Durant checked in and the rout was soon on.
Brooklyn scored 36 more in the third, bringing a 115-82 lead to the fourth while Durant went back to the bench.
Nets: Griffin had 10 points, with a powerful dunk in the second quarter. … The 79 points equaled the third-most for the Nets in a first half in franchise history.
Though the Nets have had their Big Three play just seven times, Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t see much cause for concern for Nets coach Steve Nash.
“I mean, you’re talking about three really, really talented guys who’ve played in a lot of big games and they know how to play the game and he’s seen them all play,” Van Gundy said. “I just can’t imagine that it’s a big problem. I mean, certainly he’d like to have them all together for as much time as he could, but I don’t think he’s probably over there real, real anxious about anything.”
Durant played as a reserve for only the second time in his career — both in his last two home games. He wasn’t able to start on Feb. 5 against Toronto in what was his 867th game while the NBA reviewed an inconclusive coronavirus test result of someone Durant had interacted with that afternoon. He was later cleared to enter then forced to leave again in the third quarter.
Pelicans: Host Philadelphia on Friday.
Nets: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.