Kyrie Irving returned from a prolonged absence for the Brooklyn Nets in the team’s game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Despite not having played in months, he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.
He finished with 22 points (9-of-17 from the field), four assists, three rebounds and three steals in just 32 minutes as the Nets snapped a three-game skid, coming back from 19-points down to beat the Pacers on their home floor, 129-121.
It was only last week that Irving, who recently exited the league’s health and safety protocols, practiced with his teammates for the first time since week one of training camp in San Diego in early October.
Head coach Steve Nash said at the time that Irving looked good despite having missed so much basketball.
“He looks great considering he just came out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball,” Nash told reporters. “How does he recover from today? How many high-intensity [practices] does he need to feel comfortable, confident?”
It was a slow start to the game from Irving – he took and missed the first shot of the game – but we had the answer to Nash’s question early in the second quarter when Irving hit his first basket of the game less than a minute into the quarter.
Although he went scoreless in the first quarter with two turnovers, from the second period, he looked like the Irving of old by getting to his spots while working his handles and finishing around the basket. At one stage he had all eight of the Nets’ second-quarter points over a two-minute span.
He ended the third quarter with a buzzer-beating shot and had ten points in the fourth quarter alone.
“It’s not ideal, this situation we’re in, but we’re gonna battle through it and we’re gonna everything to stay together,” he said post-game.
“It felt amazing, a long time coming. It’s been months, so just to get back here, playing against Indiana, we just wanted to come out with a resilient attitude.”
Irving, who is not vaccinated for COVID-19, is not eligible to play in Brooklyn’s home games under the New York City vaccinate mandate but he is eligible to play in 22 more Nets games this season as things stand.
The next game Irving is eligible to play in is on Monday in Portland against the Trail Blazers as part of the Nets’ short two-game road trip.