The NBA continues to mourn the tragic death of Kobe Bryant who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, and while the loss remains difficult to process, the games must move forward.
It was an emotional night on Wednesday at the Barclays Center during the Nets (20-26) 125-115 win over the visiting Detroit Pistons, as the night began with a beautiful tribute to Kobe and his 13-year daughter Gianna, who along with seven other victims died in Sunday’s horrible helicopter crash.
But the focus was on Kyrie Irving––who sat out Sunday’s matchup against the Knicks––and who was dealing with the loss of Kobe as their relationship had gone beyond the basketball court.
“It’s been three days, man. So it’s like open wounds still,” said Irving, who was visibly distraught before tip-off. “You lose somebody in your family or you’re seeing your family grieve or seeing other families grieve you feel for them.”
To Irving’s credit, his return to the floor showed tremendous strength as he has had a tendency to isolate himself when he is going through personal problems.
“I think it’s his haven. This is a comfort zone and his place where he feels comfortable,” said Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson. “I’m sure on his drive home when he’s sitting at home alone, a lot of those feelings will come back. But this was good for him, playing this game.”
Grief aside, Irving and the Nets are battling to remain a playoff team, and with their recent struggles, every game matters. Against the Pistons the Nets came to work and made sure to keep the eighth seed in their possession.
Irving who has not played well since returning from his shoulder injury, finished the night with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Spencer Dinwiddie had a game-high 28 points with six assists. Taurean Prince added 22 points. The Nets as a whole shot the ball well finishing the night shooting 50 percent from the floor.
The Nets took an early 12-point lead, but the pistons made a run to take a 59-51 lead midway through the second quarter. The Nets finished the first half with a 19-9 run to take a 70-68 edge.
With the score knotted at 70-all, the Nets gained control with another 12-2 run giving them an 82-72 lead, with 8:59 left in the third quarter. The Nets never looked back.
It’s a huge win for the Nets who are sitting in the eighth seed for the moment with the Chicago Bulls and Pistons right behind them. The Nets will face the Bulls, who are only three games in the standings, on Thursday. Luckily for Brooklyn, the Bulls 8-16 road record gives them more than a fighting chance to separate themselves even more.
Before the game, Dinwiddie a Los Angeles native changed his jersey from No. 8 to No. 26 in honor of Bryant’s No. 24 and Gianna’s No. 2.