The Charlotte Hornets were the Brooklyn Nets’ opponent when Kyrie Irving was first ineligible for home games due to New York City’s mandate against unvaccinated private sector employees on Oct. 24.
On Thursday, a bye was granted to athletes and entertainers, a decision that allows Irving to appear in the home game. The guard makes his home debut Sunday night when Brooklyn hosts Charlotte in an Eastern Conference seeding tie-breaking game.
Irving will play his 22nd game of the season but the first at home since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks on June 7. He injured his ankle in Game 4 at Milwaukee and was ruled ineligible for home games due to the warrant.
As for the Nets (39-35), they are 7-2 in their last nine games and 9-12 in games Irving has appeared in since his season debut on Jan. 5. On Saturday, they picked up a 110-95 win over the Miami Heat and didn’t need much from Irving, who scored 11 points and played 30 minutes.
Irving’s contribution to Brooklyn’s final win came hours later. He said he plans to re-sign with the Nets and his remaining teammates with Kevin Durant, who scored 23 points on Saturday.
“I love it here,” Irving said. “Once summer rolls around, I know we’ll have conversations, but there’s no way I can leave my 7 man (Durant) anywhere.”
These are conversations the Nets hope to have after a long playoff streak, but they hope to get out of a playing spot first. With eight games to go, the Nets are two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. , seventh, and three over the Toronto Raptors, sixth.
Six of Brooklyn’s remaining games at home, where they are 3-1 in their last four games and a 16-19 walker overall.
“If we can get a crowd ready to go and our guys will be happy to have them home, that would give us a boost as well,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said.
Charlotte (38-36) is one game behind Brooklyn and leads the 10th-place Atlanta Hawks by one game.
The Hornets are 6-1 in their last seven games and 8-3 in their last 11 in a streak that includes wins over Cleveland, Dallas and Utah.
On Friday, the Hornets survived by allowing 17 3-pointers to claim a 107-101 victory over the visiting Jazz. Charlotte rebounded from allowing 20 3-pointers in a 15-point loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday by forcing six turnovers and allowing 23 points in the fourth quarter.
“When we’re playing defense, we’re in every game and competing in every game,” Charlotte forward Miles Bridges said. “So overall we did a good job of staying focused.”
Bridges, who torched the Nets for 62 points in the first two meetings, had 26 points on Friday. Terry Rozier, who scored 30 last with Brooklyn on March 8, added 25 against Utah.
“Tonight we had everyone from the start,” Rozier said. “And when we play like that, we’re a tough team to beat. It is just what it is.
–Field level media
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