Dinwiddie leads Nets in Brooklyn return; Suns fall as Durant waits in wings

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Brooklyn Nets launched a new era -- without the All-Star talents of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant -- with a 116-105 NBA victory over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday thanks in large part to new arrival Spencer Dinwiddie.

Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets walks off of the court after the game against the Chicago Bulls on February 9, 2023 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (AFP)

Dinwiddie, who returned to Brooklyn from Dallas in the trade that sent Irving to the Mavericks on Monday, scored 25 points to help the Nets snap a two-game skid and settle down on a trade deadline day that saw Durant stunningly dealt to the Phoenix Suns days after Irving departed.

The Suns fell 116-107 to the Hawks in Atlanta, and will no doubt be looking forward eagerly to Durant's debut with the team.

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Lakers continued to bask in the glow of LeBron James's ascent to the top of the NBA's all-time scoring list on Tuesday.

"King" James didn't play in the Lakers' home game against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was feted before the contest with a video tribute two days after he overtook Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had topped the career scoring list for 39 years.

Dinwiddie, who played five seasons for the Nets before he was traded in 2020, was delighted to return with a win, especially with Mikal Bridges and Camp Johnson, the key acquisitions in the Durant trade, not yet in uniform for their new team.

Despite being short-handed, the Nets managed to put together a 20-6 fourth-quarter scoring run that featured a pair of three-pointers from Yuta Watanabe.

It was a promising performance from a team that Dinwiddie insists could still be a playoff contender.

"You don't lose a talent like KD and get better immediately, it just doesn't happen," he said. "But at the end of the day we've got a lot of good pieces. We've got a chance to do a little bit of something."

In Atlanta, Trae Young scored 36 points with seven rebounds and 12 assists as the Hawks gained a victory that can only make Suns coach Monty Williams look forward to Durant's arrival.

He doesn't foresee much trouble integrating the two-time NBA champion, alongside Chris Paul and Devin Booker, a lineup that has suddenly made Phoenix a Western Conference favorite.

"Kevin can play with anybody. Book can play with anybody and Chris can play with anybody," Williams said, adding that Durant will bring "more than a lift."

"I think it's more of a jolt, not just because of who he is, but his love of the game."

Magic stun Nuggets

The Orlando Magic avenged a heart-breaking January loss to Denver with a 115-104 home victory over the Western Conference-leading Nuggets.

Orlando shook off a slow start that saw the Nuggets surge to a 12-0 lead to start the game, scoring 18 points off 12 first-half turnovers by the Nuggets as they took a 10-point halftime lead.

Denver cut the deficit to five points in the third quarter but would get no closer.

Orlando, led by 19 points from Wendell Carter Jr. and with seven players scoring in double figures, pushed their lead to as many as 19 on the way to a convincing win.

"I think we faced a lot of adversity to start off," Carter said. "Going down 12-zero early, we just locked in on what was important, locked in on the game plan. We turned up the heat and that's what got us the 'W' tonight."

It was all the sweeter after the Magic could only watch on January 15 as Denver star Nikola Jokic drained a three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left for a 119-116 win over the Magic.

Two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Jokic had a double-double of 29 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, who were led by 37 points from Aaron Gordon.