By BRIAN MAHONEY – AP basketball writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving has been waiting all season for a chance to play in front of his home fans, and it sure wasn’t how he envisioned it.
“Not the result we wanted, I wasn’t shooting as well as I wanted,” Irving said. “Basically, none of what I was hoping for tonight just didn’t happen and that’s just the flow of basketball.”
Things went much better for the other point guard.
LaMelo Ball had 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Charlotte Hornets spoiled Irving’s first home game of the season by beating the Brooklyn Nets 119-110 Sunday night.
Irving missed a misfire for 3 1/2 quarters, eventually warming up to give the Nets the lead, and then the Hornets regained control with clutch 3-point shooting to give them a win they won tied with Brooklyn for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Irving finished with 16 points and tied his season-high 11 assists but shot 6 for 22 from the field. He was unable to play at home this season until Mayor Eric Adams last week exempted athletes and performers from New York City’s coronavirus vaccine mandate.
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“It was great to see him out there, nice to see the fans cheering for him,” said Kevin Durant. “Unfortunately we took the ‘L’ but we’re going ahead knowing we have him here and building on what we have and trying to win the next game.”
Miles Bridges had 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 encounters this season, earning a potential neck-and-neck tiebreak.
Durant had 27 points, eight rebounds and seven assists and played the entire second half on the second night of a back-to-back. He only shot 9 for 24. Andre Drummond had 20 points and 16 rebounds.
Irving missed 15 of his first 17 shots but then made two layups 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 blew past them with four 3-pointers.
Cody Martin made two of them, Terry Rozier added one before Bridges finished it for the final margin.
“The last 3 seconds at the end was really tight,” Ball said, “so it was a great game.”
Ball scored 18 points in the third quarter, scoring 5-of-6 from 3-point range. He finished 7 of 12 behind the arch.
Irving was playing 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. A stretch of eight games to complete the regular season began Sunday, and only one outside of New York, six at home and one at Madison Square Garden.
Irving received a loud ovation from the 18,166 crowd, the biggest ever seen at a Nets game at the Barclays Center, after resuming his seat as the last Nets player was announced during the starting lineup. But there was nothing he could do to get another early in the game as he missed 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 applauding as if to take him away and he responded by knocking down the second shot for his first point.
Irving then got a 3-pointer in transition to create a 10-point lead and his first field goal, and the Nets led by 14 before Charlotte cut it to 60-56 at halftime.
The ball then came out and hit three 3-pointers in the first three minutes, allowing Charlotte to start her 37-point third quarter.
“We know we’re a good team in the third quarter and we set the tone,” said Hornets coach James Borrego.
Ball’s last 3 of the period gave the Hornets a 90-79 lead, but Brooklyn cut it to 93-89 by the end of the period.
Hornets: Charlotte made 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 road games.
Nets: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge was available after missing nine games with a right hip injury but didn’t start. … Seth Curry, struggling with a sore ankle, scored 12 points.
Hornets: host Denver on Monday night.
Networks: host Detroit on Tuesday night.
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