It was worth the wait for TJ Warren and the gamble for the Brooklyn Nets.
Playing for the first time in nearly two years, Warren picked up from where he left off to help the Nets extend their win streak to four after beating the Toronto Raptors, 114-105, Friday night at Barclays Center.
Warren scored 10 points in 17 minutes off the bench in an auspicious return to the NBA and his Brooklyn debut. The whole Nets bench celebrated his first basket since Dec. 29, 2020 — a short corner jumper off a fake with 3:28 left in the opening quarter that extended their lead to 22.
“It was a lot of emotion. Like I said before the game, I went through every emotion to get to this point. The training staff, my teammates, the coaching staff, and the whole organization did a great job getting me back to this point, and I’m just forever grateful for this opportunity.”TJ Warren via Yes Network
Warren continued to hit his stride in the second quarter, shooting 3 of 6 from the field and pulling down three rebounds as the Nets zoomed to as large as a 36-point lead.
Warren’s family was in attendance to watch his much-awaited return to the court after his long and emotional recovery from a stress fracture in his left foot that required two surgeries. And to hear his name chanted by the 17,732 sold-out crowd is a surreal feeling.
“Like I said, it’s been so long. So [the chants] is like a big eye opener but just forever grateful, man. Thanks to the fans for embracing me, and let’s keep this one streak going.”TJ Warren via Yes Network
Warren’s solid debut (10 points, 4 rebounds and 1 steal) was a part of the Nets’ balanced attack that eased Kevin Durant’s scoring burden.
Durant, who racked up 31 or more points in their previous four games, only needed to score 17 this time, and still, the Nets came away with a win. But the Nets leader flirted with a triple-double as he finished with nine rebounds and seven assists.
Durant’s co-star Kyrie Irving led Brooklyn with 27 points and five assists.
Joe Harris continued his resurgence, adding 17 points on a season-high five three-pointers before fouling out.
The Raptors clawed back late in the fourth quarter, but Nic Claxton and Irving responded while Durant and Seth Curry iced the game at the free-throw line.
All Nets starters hit double figures, with Claxton producing 15 points and nine rebounds while Royce O’Neale added 11 and 8.
The win pushed the Nets to the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference after the Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies, 117-109, and dropped to 12-11. The Raptors fell to eighth with their 11th loss in 22 games.
Next for the Nets is the league-leading Boston Celtics on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s first round of the playoffs. The Celtics’ sweep rocked the Nets to their core and almost led to Durant’s departure.
But after taking fliers on the likes of Warren to address their lack of size in the wings and shotmaking, plus the coaching switch to Jacque Vaughn, the Nets have improved and more capable to give the Celtics a run for their money.
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