After missing two months of action for a total of 26 games due to a hamstring injury, Brooklyn Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant finally returned to the lineup nearly three weeks back.
Picking up right where he left off, the prolific scorer averaged 23.8 points, 6.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds while shooting an unbelievable 65.3 percent from the field, 58.8 percent from 3-point land and 95.5 percent from the free throw line over a four-game span.
Looking like his usual self, Durant appeared to be back to full strength until he suffered another leg injury in his fifth game back against the Miami Heat. Diagnosed with a thigh contusion, it was unclear when the star forward would get back on the floor.
With the Nets holding sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference despite the absences of Durant and All-Star guard James Harden (who is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury), it was expected that Brooklyn would take its time in allowing its superstars to get as healthy as possible for the postseason.
Durant would miss three more games with his thigh contusion, but the former MVP would return much sooner than anticipated, retaking the floor for Sunday's contest against the Phoenix Suns.
In a similar fashion as we saw in Durant's first game back following the long absence of his hamstring injury, head coach Steve Nash elected to bring Durant off the bench for just the third time in his career - all three of which have come this season.
Nash's reasoning for bringing Durant off the bench is that the star forward is on a minutes restriction and he wanted to have him available in the chance that it was a close game down the stretch.
As a result, Durant did not step on the floor in the first quarter, saving his minutes for higher-leverage situations. When he finally took the floor in the second frame, the 11-time All-Star got right into the mix, scoring nine quick points to get in rhythm.
Nash's plan worked to perfection, as Durant was really able to catch fire in the second half and help put the game away in the fourth quarter. The four-time scoring champion would drop 10 points in the third quarter, knocking down his usual pull-up jumpers with ease.
Starting the fourth quarter in a close five-point game, Durant scored five straight points to build Brooklyn's lead to double digits - a lead they would never surrender.
KD (33 PTS & 6 REB) balled out in his return from injury 😤 pic.twitter.com/z76QFVBUTh- NBA TV (@NBATV) April 25, 2021
He would finish the game with 33 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block in just 28 minutes of playing time. His absurd efficiency continued, shooting 12-for-21 from the field and 2-for-3 from 3-point range.
The Suns would receive 36 points from Devin Booker and a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double from Deandre Ayton, but it wasn't enough to keep up with Durant and his All-Star teammate Kyrie Irving.
Irving would continue his recent tear, going off for 34 points, 12 assists and six rebounds.
With so few games together, it's impressive in its own that Brooklyn was able to pull off a win against one of the best teams in the NBA in Durant's first game back.
The Nets advance to 11-8 on the season in games where they have both Irving and Durant in the lineup as the team tries to gain some continuity heading into the postseason.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.