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Durant returns with 22 and a 125-99 Nets rout of Warriors

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) shoots as Golden State Warriors forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) defends with Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall (7) looking on from the floor during the first quarter of an opening night NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK – Kevin Durant looked good as new against his old team, Kyrie Irving was even better and the Brooklyn Nets emphatically kicked off the Steve Nash era with a 125-99 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night in the NBA’s season opener.

Durant shook off 18 months of rust in a matter of moments and finished with 22 points in 25 minutes of his first official game since rupturing his Achilles tendon while playing for Golden State in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals.

Irving led Brooklyn with 26 points and Caris LeVert scored 20 as the Nets led by as many as 38, pouring on the points the way the Phoenix Suns did when Nash was their point guard, or more recently Golden State did when Durant was their All-Star forward.

The Nets are expected to contend for the Eastern Conference title after finally getting Durant and Irving on the court together and they used the first game of the shortened, 72-game season to prove they might be worth the hype.

Stephen Curry had 20 points and 10 assists for the Warriors, a depleted team that looks nothing like the powerhouse that won two titles in Durant's three seasons there.

Durant left shortly after having surgery following his injury and was expected to sit out the entire 2019-20 season even before it was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Teammates who have worked out with him said the four-time scoring champion was back in top form and Durant quickly backed up their boasts in a mostly empty Barclays Center.

He made his first three shots, one a 3-pointer and another while being fouled, and was in double figures in fewer than five minutes. He did everything but keep up with Irving, who made three 3-pointers and had 17 points in 9 1/2 minutes of the opening quarter, when the Nets led by as many as 21.

Irving, himself coming back from injury after playing just 20 games last season because of shoulder problems, had Brooklyn’s last two baskets of the first half, including a deep 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left that made it 63-45.