Kyrie Irving Scores 50 Points in Nets’ Season-Opening Loss

Kyrie Irving Scores 50 Points in Nets’ Season-Opening Loss

Kyrie Irving delivered the kind of superstar performance that Nets fans dreamed of when he announced he was signing with the team this summer. Chants of “Kyrie’s home!” rang out around Barclays Center during the Nets’ season opener on Wednesday night. There were “M.V.P.” chants and loud roars when he touched the ball on his way to 50 points.

But it wasn’t enough to get the win. It was, quite literally, inches short of one.

Irving barely missed a last-second jumper in a 127-126 overtime loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But he gave a valiant effort, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing seven assists in addition to scoring 50 in his much-anticipated debut. It wasn’t quite his career high — that would be 57 points — but Irving was the main reason the Nets climbed out from under a double-digit deficit in the first half.

Irving came out firing right away, scoring 12 of the Nets’ first 19 points. But Minnesota had a powerhouse playmaker of its own: Karl-Anthony Towns, who matched Irving nearly blow for blow, scoring 36 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Towns hit all four of his 3-pointers in the first half and grabbed nine first-half rebounds — helping the Timberwolves to a lead of as many as 18 points.

But Irving kept the Nets from being run off the court early, relentlessly attacking the basket on his way to 25 first-half points. Minnesota came out with energy from the start and received a significant boost from its reserves, particularly from the fourth-year forward Jake Layman, who scored 8 of Minnesota’s 22 first-half bench points.

The Nets began mounting a comeback at the end of the first half, as Caris LeVert scored 6 points in 40 seconds and a running buzzer-beater from Spencer Dinwiddie cut the deficit to 12 at halftime.

After the second half got underway, Irving’s supporting cast came to life. The Nets immediately went on a 15-2 run and briefly took the lead. The explosion was triggered by Taurean Prince, a promising fourth-year forward, who dropped 15 points in the third quarter, and Dinwiddie, who added 7 in that frame. The Nets entered the final quarter up by 5.

Neither team could generate momentum down the stretch, and the game stayed close. Jarrett Allen, the third-year Nets center who got the starting nod over the recent addition DeAndre Jordan, had a chance to win the game at the free-throw line with five seconds left in regulation. A career 73 percent free-throw shooter, he missed both attempts.

The game went to overtime, where Irving scored 7 of the Nets’ 11 points, but his last-second shot rimmed out for a disappointing end to what was otherwise a stellar first night in a season of great expectations.

The Nets began with a new look after an off-season makeover: Now helming the offense is Irving, who was signed this summer as a free agent after a tumultuous season with the Boston Celtics. The Nets — in part thanks to Irving’s recruiting — also signed the veteran Jordan to bolster their frontcourt, as well as one of the crown jewels of the off-season: Kevin Durant, who is expected to miss the season with an Achilles’ injury. There was also the trade for Prince, whom the Nets recently signed to a contract extension.

All of this came in addition to the young talents who emerged on last season’s playoff team — such as the sharpshooting guard Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Allen, Dinwiddie and LeVert.

Nets fans can be optimistic going forward: Only a handful of players can put on a performance like the one Irving gave Wednesday night.

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