The Brooklyn Nets kicked off the 2020-21 NBA season on Tuesday night by beating down the Golden State Warriors. The game was never particularly close after opening tip, which isn't a huge surprise. The Warriors will be overly reliant on Stephen Curry all season thanks to Klay Thompson's torn Achilles suffered before the season began and when he only shoots 7-of-21 (and 2-of-10 from three) they have no shot to beat anybody, much less a team as talented as the Nets.
The game also marked the first time we were able to see Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the floor at the same time when it counted. Durant, of course, has spent the last 18 months rehabbing from his own torn Achilles suffered in the 2019 NBA Finals. Both he and Irving chose to opt out of the bubble in Orlando for recovery purposes.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, they looked great together. Durant scored 10 points in the first five minutes and proved that what we saw in the preseason was no mirage: Durant still looks like the KD of old out there, even if he isn't quite as explosive as his peak days in the Bay Area. He finished with 22 points on 7-of-16 from the floor. Kyrie looked like the same scoring wizard he's always been en route to a 26-point performance on an efficient shooting day. Unlike Durant, Irving has played basketball this calendar year, so expectations should be a bit higher for him, and he met them.
What was more impressive was the rest of the roster. Brooklyn didn't make any huge changes over the offseason, but they did bring in Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown to bolster the backcourt along with Jeff Green in the frontcourt. Both Shamet and Green have experience playing off two ball-dominant superstars and neither made much statistical impact, but they were in the right place at the right time all night. Both finished with a positive net rating, which doesn't say a ton in a big blowout over an average team, but a good sign given they had approximately no time to acclimate to their new squad.
It was the Nets' mainstays, though, that were most encouraging when looking forward to Brooklyn's championship chances. Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie will both be getting less touches than they're used to, but both were willing to let it fly as soon as they got the ball. Caris LeVert has usually only played well when he gets to run the offense, but did a great job playing off the ball with one of the Kyrie/KD duo coming off the bench. That trio finished with 39 combined points while shooting 6-of-12 from deep.
That's what the Nets will need from them, especially early on as Durant eases his way back into the flow of things. Their ability to score will keep the Nets afloat early on, and their ability to space the floor while taking advantage of the defense's attention on their superstar teammates will be what brings them a championship.
Steve Nash is off to a stellar start as head coach. They'll have to keep it up, but the Nets are looking every bit like the contender they were pegged to be.