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Kevin Durant Drops 33 in Return from Injury as Kyrie Irving, Nets Beat Suns

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2021

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving goes to the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, April 23, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Kevin Durant returned to game action for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, but Kyrie Irving threatened to steal the show. 

The star guard lit up the Phoenix Suns, scoring 34 points in Brooklyn's 128-119 win. Durant was hardly an afterthought, of course, giving the Nets 33 points himself in just 28 minutes off the bench. Welcome back (again), KD.   

The win was a big one for Brooklyn (41-20), moving them 1.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference and giving them a three-game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks. With the East appearing to be a three-team race this year, landing the top seed and avoiding Philly or Milwaukee until the Conference Finals would be huge for a Nets team that has battled injuries all season long. 

The Suns (42-18), meanwhile, dropped two full games behind the Utah Jazz in their quest for the top overall seed in the West. 

                

Key Stats

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Kyrie Irving, BKN: 34 points, 12 assists

Kevin Durant, BKN: 33 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block

Blake Griffin, BKN: 16 points, four assists and a block

Devin Booker, PHX: 36 points

DeAndre Ayton, PHX: 20 points, 13 rebounds

Chris Paul, PHX: 14 points, eight assists

                

Durant Didn't Miss a Beat

Durant's mini three-game absence after he missed 23 games earlier in the year with hamstring issues clearly didn't get him off his rhythm. He was hotter than summer blacktop, showing off why the Nets are going to be virtually impossible to defend when (or if) they're fully healthy come the postseason. 

What makes Durant so fun to watch is how effortless he makes it all look. When he originally returned in early April, he didn't miss a shot in that first game back. Against the Suns, he methodically picked them apart, got to his spots and efficiently led them to a fairly comfortable win against a really good Suns team. 

All without James Harden. It's going to be tough to stop these Nets, whether they play defense or not. 

                

Devin Booker Did All He Could

Booker's big game perhaps kept this one cozier than it otherwise would have been, which was all the more important on a night when Chris Paul wasn't much of a factor from a scoring perspective. 

Paul's addition has been the biggest change to the Suns this year, vaulting them from a promising team to one heading to the postseason. Paul's been this team's MVP. But Booker's ability to light up the scoreboard is just as big a reason why the Suns can say, with a straight face, that they deserve to be considered among the title contenders. 

His big night wasn't enough against Brooklyn. Soon enough we'll find out if it will be enough against some of the top teams in the West. 

              

What's Next?

The Suns stay in New York, taking on the Knicks Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV, while the Nets face the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. 

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