Kyrie Irving had missed 26 games because of a right shoulder injury, but you wouldn’t have known by the he played on his return on Monday (AEDT).
Showing no ill-effects, Irving was nearly perfect, shooting 10-of-11 from the field — including 1-of-1 from downtown, en route to 21 points in 20 minutes.
It came in the Brooklyn Nets’ 108-86 win over the Atlanta Hawks, who, at 8-32, have the worst record in the NBA.
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Lloyd Pierce has been unable to inspire his Hawks on the defensive end, and that was on show again against the Nets, who shot 53.2 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from downtown. Caris LeVert came off the bench for 13 points, in a game where all but one Net hit the scoreboard.
Already the at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the Hawks entered this road game without Trae Young, who suffered a left hamstring injury.
With no Young — the team’s leading scoring and assists man — the Hawks leant on first round pick, Cam Reddish, who finished with 20 points and five steals, while DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench for 12 points.
The return of Irving was a welcome one for the Nets, who started their stint without him on a high, before dropping seven straight games over the courts of December and January.
The six-time All-Star averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 assists, and 5.4 rebounds over his 11 games in his first season with the Nets, with the team going 4-7 during that period. After Monday’s win, the Nets improved to 18-20 on the season.