Kevin Durant punctuates Brooklyn Nets return with flawless shooting performance

In the NBA, the phrase “this guy can’t miss” is often an exaggeration.

For Kevin Durant on Wednesday night, it was a scientific fact.

Following a 23-game injury layoff, Durant returned to the Brooklyn Nets lineup off the bench and literally did not miss a shot in just shy of 19 minutes of work against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Durant dropped 17 points on 5-for-5 from the field, including two 3-pointers, and sunk all five of his free-throw attempts.

He was active beyond that, too, securing seven rebounds, dishing out five assists, and even adding a blocked shot to his stat sheet, for good measure.

The evening wasn’t short of intrigue, that’s for sure.

Just before the game tipped off, there were concerns Durant might have suffered a setback after his two-month absence.

The Nets originally announced Durant would start, but he was removed from the lineup and instead began the game on the bench.

For a quarter and a half, Nets fans eagerly awaited Durant’s return.

He hit the floor at the 7:37 mark of the second quarter and, as evidenced, appeared to be just fine.

After Brooklyn’s 139-111 rout of the Pelicans, Durant caught up with ESPN’s Malika Andrews to discuss the reasoning behind his coming off of the bench.

“I was at a cap in minutes, and [Nets head coach Steve Nash] wanted to see if, it’s a close game, he wanted to be able to throw me in there in the fourth [quarter]. So, he decided to compromise a few minutes early in the game and see what happens later on. … For me, mentally, it was different ⁠— it’s been a long time since I haven’t started ⁠— but it worked out.”

Durant also touched on the oft-discussed issue of on-court chemistry between Brooklyn’s trio of stars in KD, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.

While Irving was on the floor for the blowout ⁠— contributing 24 points, six assists and two rebounds ⁠— Harden was on the shelf with a hamstring injury he recently suffered.

Here’s what Durant had to say about jelling with his teammates:

“If we keep it simple, then the chemistry is going to continue to keep building. I mean, I think it’s at a nice level right now, but obviously, we want everybody out on the court going into the later part of the season. But we’ve got guys. No matter if they’re on the court, they understand how to play the right way. And I think that builds chemistry.”

For Skip Bayless of “Undisputed,” Durant’s return was a welcoming back of the NBA‘s best player, especially with how Durant made rust an apparent non-factor. 

ESPN’s Tim Legler was equally impressed with how sharp Durant looked after nearly a two-month absence.

“I think it’s unfair to the rest of us mortals that anything should look that easy after a long layoff. … Very few guys would be able to come back ⁠— I don’t care who you are ⁠— and shake off the rust that quickly. … And it’s just scary to think about what this team can look like once they finally do get all three guys out there and they find a rhythm together.”

For Chris Broussard, he’s seen enough to make some bold proclamations about Brooklyn on “First Things First.”

“Two words rang through my mind as I watched K.D and the Nets last night — It’s over! … Their efficiency, offensively, with Durant on the floor … was 143. 143! The best all-time. … It was just awe-inspiring.”

Chris Broussard joins Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe to discuss Kevin Durant’s return to the Brooklyn Nets after missing the 23 straight games. Hear why Broussard believes this may be one of the finest NBA teams ever assembled.

However, it wasn’t a completely flawless night for Durant, who finished with a game-high six turnovers in his abbreviated appearance.

While there were plenty of positives to take away from Durant’s return, Nick Wright did have a concern.

“Despite how gaudy and efficient the stat line was, he, to me, did not look like himself. He looked tentative. He looked hesitant. He almost seemed to be going up and down the court gingerly. … I saw him able to dominate the game, by the way, going at half speed. But he’s going to need to be able to go full speed.”

Hear Nick Wright’s three biggest takeaways from Kevin Durant’s return to the Nets.

There are still a lot of questions about the 36-16 Nets, but one thing is for certain: With a healthy Durant, they’re more than just can’t-miss from a player standpoint.

They’re can’t-miss TV.

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