NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 21 points in 20 minutes of an easy return from a two-month absence with an injured right shoulder, leading the Brooklyn Nets to a 108-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
Irving shot 10 for 11 from the field after missing 26 games with an impingement. The shoulder looked fine and his handle looked as good as ever while he dribbled his way around a hopeless Atlanta defense.
Energized by his return that still seemed a ways away just a week ago, the Nets led by 39 points and won their second straight after dropping seven in a row.
Cam Reddish scored 20 points for the Hawks, who played without star guard Trae Young because of a left hamstring injury and lost their fourth straight.
Taurean Prince scored 14 points for the Nets, who made it such an easy night that their fans didn't need to worry about the scoreboard as they roared for Vince Carter's two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The 42-year-old former Nets star finished with eight points in his final road appearance against the franchise.
Irving began feeling pain in his shoulder early in the season, and he took himself out of the lineup after a game in Denver on Nov. 14. The Nets held up well without him for a while thanks mostly to Spencer Dinwiddie's strong play, but had faltered recently and struggled especially in crunch time.
Irving got a cortisone shot on Dec. 24, revealing last weekend his options were that or surgery. He gave no indication then he was close to returning, but participated fully in practice this week.
He started alongside Dinwiddie to share the playmaking responsibilities and did most of his scoring near the basket, making the only 3-pointer he attempted. The Nets were already leading 70-46 at halftime before he went 5 for 5 for 10 points in a dazzling six-minute stretch of the third quarter.
Hawks: Carter got a nice ovation when he checked in and then when he checked out for good in his final road appearance against the Nets. He spent 4 1/2 seasons with the franchise when it was in New Jersey and is third on the Nets' scoring list. His old team was a bit premature with its goodbye, playing a tribute video for Carter when the Hawks played here last year, though he had given no indication he planned to retire. He ended up coming back and became the first player to play 22 NBA seasons. ... Coach Lloyd Pierce said Young got treatment in Washington, where the Hawks practiced Saturday, and was still sore Sunday. Brandon Goodwin started in his place.
Nets: Brooklyn has won the last eight meetings. That's only halfway to the longest winning streak in the series, as Atlanta won 16 straight from 1986-89. ... Brooklyn's previous biggest lead in a game this season was 26 points against Philadelphia on Dec. 15.
Young and Irving are the leading vote-getters among Eastern Conference guards after the second returns of fan balloting for the NBA All-Star Game. Young had received 1,389,628 votes in totals announced Thursday, and Irving had 1,351,997.
The Nets warmed up in shirts reading “No Place for Hate." The shirts were designed in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League after a number of anti-Semitic attacks in Brooklyn over the past few months.
Hawks: Host Phoenix on Tuesday.
Nets: Host Utah on Tuesday.