The Brooklyn Nets brought a little extra pizzazz for their first road game of 2022, bringing back Kyrie Irving to the starting lineup against the Indiana Pacers. The Nets have their “Big 3” of Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden together for the trio’s first game together since June 10. The team believed his conditioning would allow him to play up to 30 minutes in his debut.
Irving was out early pregame getting up shots in his red and white Kyrie 3s. In the game, he decided to sport the “Mamba Mentality” Kyrie 3s, which were inspired by Kobe Bryant’s previous Bruce Lee theme and featured a split “Kyrobe” logo on the tongue.
After going scoreless in the first quarter, missing his first three shots, Uncle Drew started to warm up in the second quarter knocking down three straight shots, sinking two free throws, scoring Brooklyn’s first eight points. In the first 17 minutes, Irving’s stat line stood at eight points, two rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
After sitting much of the third quarter, Irving made a positive impact again, sparking an 8-0 Brooklyn run to end the third quarter with two buckets, including a buzzer-beater to cut the Pacers lead to single digits going into the final quarter.
Then, when he returned to the game with 8:39 left, Kyrie Irving went off, scoring ten points to seal the Nets’ comeback from a 19-point deficit to win 129-121. Irving’s performance helped the Nets outscore the Pacers 69-48 in the second half.
#13 ➡️ #11 pic.twitter.com/fVna2VF6rk— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 6, 2022
In 32 minutes, Irving finished with 22 points (on 9-17 shooting from the field), three rebounds, four assists, and played active defense, registering three steals on the night. The story of the game is how long Irving will take to knock off the rust and get acclimated to his role on the team. There’s also the question of whether he makes the All-Star game or not; he will provide an All-Star-type buzz in every arena he travels to for the rest of the season.
“Just a lot of gratitude just to be present tonight with everyone,” Irving said per ESPN. “Just go out there and have fun doing what we love to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we came in the locker room, and we knew that in order to build this identity that we want to have later in the season, we got to start now.”