Ball scores 33 points, Hornets spoil Irving’s home debut | Basketball

By BRIAN MAHONEY – AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving waited all season for the chance to perform in front of his home fans, and that certainly wasn’t the way he envisioned it.

“It’s not the result we wanted, I didn’t shoot as well as I wanted,” Irving said. “Basically, none of the things that I was hoping for tonight just didn’t happen, and that’s just the flow of basketball.

It went much better for the other leader.

LaMelo Ball had 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Charlotte Hornets ruined Irving’s home opener of the season by beating the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 on Sunday night.

Irving missed for 3½ quarters, eventually warmed up to give the Nets the lead, then the Hornets regained control with a 3-point clutch shot to give them a win that tied them with Brooklyn for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Irving finished with 16 points and tied his season high with 11 assists, but shot 6 for 22 from the field. He hadn’t been able to play at home this season until Mayor Eric Adams last week exempted athletes and entertainers from New York City’s coronavirus vaccination mandate.

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“It was great to see him there, good to see the fans excited for him,” Kevin Durant said. “Unfortunately we took the ‘L’ but we move forward knowing we have it here and build on what we have and try to get a win in the next game.”

Miles Bridges scored 24 points and PJ Washington had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Hornets, who won for the seventh time in eight games. They beat the Nets for the second time in three meetings this season, earning a potential head-to-head tiebreaker.

Durant had 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, playing the entire second half on the second straight night. He shot just 9 of 24. Andre Drummond had 20 points and 16 rebounds.

Irving missed 15 of his first 17 shots but then made two lay-ups and a short jump to tie it at 104-104 with 4:05 remaining. His two free throws gave the Nets a one-point lead with 3:37 left, but then the Hornets passed them with four 3-pointers.

Cody Martin made it two, with Terry Rozier adding one before Bridges shut him down for the final margin.

“That last 3 at the end was really, really close, I feel like,” Ball said, “so that was a great game.”

Ball scored 18 points in the third quarter, going 5 of 6 from 3-point range. He finished 7 of 12 from behind the arc.

Irving played his first home game since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Milwaukee. It was a pivotal time for the Nets to get Irving back, with Sunday starting an eight-game streak to end the regular season and only one of them outside of New York, with six at home and one at Madison Square Garden.

Irving received a raucous ovation from the crowd of 18,166, the biggest ever for a Nets game at Barclays Center, after reclaiming his place as the last Nets player announced in the starting lineups. But he couldn’t do anything to get another early in the game, missing all four shots in the first quarter.

He went to the line early in the second quarter and missed his first free throw. The fans then started cheering as if trying to give him a thumbs up and he responded by knocking down the second shot for his first run.

Irving then got a 3-pointer in transition to rebound for a 10-point lead and his first field goal, and the Nets led by 14 before Charlotte cut it to 60-56 at halftime.

Ball then came out and hit three 3-pointers in the first three minutes, starting Charlotte on their 37-point third quarter.

“We know we’re a good team in the third quarter and we came out and set the tone,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.

Ball’s last 3 of the period gave the Hornets a 90-79 lead, but Brooklyn cut it back to 93-89 at the end of the period.

Hornets: Charlotte was making her first of two visits to New York in four days. The Hornets visit the Knicks on Wednesday. … Rozier scored 14 points. … Charlotte has won four straight games on the road.

Nets: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge was available to play after missing nine games with a right hip injury, but did not take part in the game. … Seth Curry, struggling with a sore ankle, scored 12 points.

Hornets: Host Denver Monday night.

Nets: Host Detroit on Tuesday night.

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