In a new era for both franchises, Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant dominated from the jump, as new-look Dubs face daunting climb back to the pinnacle of their sport.
The last time Kevin Durant competed in a competitive basketball game was for the Warriors 18 months ago in which he tore his Achilles tendon. While players and coaches on both sides spent time downplaying any added rivalry in this season’s opener, basketball fans were salivating at an opening night that featured a healthy Durant and reloaded Warriors squad.
The Warriors, as Chris Webber explained in the TNT broadcast, ran into a buzz saw that was the Brooklyn Nets, as Durant and Kyrie Irving torched the dubs in the opening few minutes, catching fire with no extinguisher in sight. Durant got to his spots early, knocking down tough fadeaways over long defenders, looking reminiscent of his old self.
Irving, who is returning from an extended injury absence of his own, finished the first half with 24 points and was in cruise control the rest of the way.
The Nets shot over 45% from the field and nearly 43% from 3pt land. Caris LeVert was strong off the bench, and these new Nets have been tapped by analysts to come out atop the Eastern Conference this season. Their play at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last night was sharp for a season opener, while the Warriors’ sloppy turnovers and careless play saw them behind early, and the combination was devastating to Golden State in the box score.
The refreshed Warriors roster featured four new starters from last year’s opening night, with James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre Jr. hoping to fill the huge hole left by Klay Thomspon this season.
Despite the game never being truly competitive, the two new Warriors signings were explosive all night, with Wiseman getting his career going early with a monster dunk, and stepping back behind the three point line a handful of times to show off his range.
Nine James Wiseman points in just over two mop-up minutes. Three deep jumpers. Looks more confident than I expected right away from the outside. pic.twitter.com/JruUZOTOBZ— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 23, 2020
Oubre Jr., who was acquired from Oklahoma City in November, played with a ton of athleticism. His zeal was most apparent on this put back slam over Kevin Durant in the first quarter:
“Defense is what feeds energy,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr When said when asked about how the team can maintain Oubre’s enthusiasm once he gets going. “You get a few stops, you get a couple run-outs, you get a couple big plays, now you’re in the game. But they scored 40 points in the first quarter, we were never in the game.”
All eyes were on Steph Curry, who himself has been recovering from injury for over a year, as he marked his 700th career regular season game with the Warriors and surpassed 24,000 total minutes played. Curry finished the game with 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting and 10 assists, and while he looked like his former self in stretches, KD and Kyrie were just too much to take on himself.
Kerr has alluded to new expectations for this season as normal, if not expected championship aims are less realistic. The Warriors will look to get better each and every game this season with the hopes of being at their best entering the playoffs, ready to make a deep run for the title.
Vegas currently has the Warriors odds to win the league this year at 30-1. The last time their odds were this low, they hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.
The Warriors will look to build in one of five Christmas Day matchups against last year’s MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwauakee Bucks at 11:30 AM PST.
Top Image: Sarah Stier/Getty Images