Basketball: Kyrie Irving hits 50 points in NBA debut for Nets but Timberwolves still triumph

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets in action against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Barclays Center, on Oct 23, 2019.
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets in action against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Barclays Center, on Oct 23, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Kyrie Irving dazzled in his Brooklyn debut, but his 50 points were not enough as the Nets fell 127-126 in overtime to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their NBA season-opener on Wednesday (Oct 23).

Irving, whose arrival from the Boston Celtics as a free agent helped stamp the Nets as contenders this season, opened the night with an emotional address to fans in Brooklyn - not far from where he grew up in New Jersey.

"I'm eternally grateful to be here, be back home in front of you guys with my teammates," Irving said. "On behalf of us - oh man, I'm sorry, it's just hitting me now - I appreciate you guys, and I look forward to you guys supporting us all season."

But in a game that saw 22 lead changes, it was the Timberwolves out to the faster start.

They led by as many as 18 in the second quarter and were up 68-56 at halftime.

Then came Irving, who scored 30 points in the fourth quarter. His step-back three put Brooklyn up 115-112 with 1:16 left in regulation, but Karl Anthony Towns - who led Minnesota with 36 points - answered with a three-pointer as they went to overtime.

They traded the lead five times in the extra period, two driving baskets from Andrew Wiggins giving the Timberwolves a 127-124 lead.

Irving sank two free throws, but with the ball in his hands for a potential game-winner he stumbled, recovered, but missed his shot.

Irving broke the record for most points by a player in his first game with an NBA team - Kiki Vandeweghe's 47 for Portland on October 27, 1984.

The Celtics' post-Irving life began with a 93-107 loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia.

Ben Simmons, who opted not to play for Australia in the World Cup to focus on his preparations for the season, led the Sixers with 24 points, eight rebounds and nine assists.

Five 76ers in double figures included Cameroonian center Joel Embiid, who took a beating on the way to 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Embiid was left with a bloodied face when he took an inadvertent elbow from Jaylen Brown in the third quarter and hit the court hard chasing a loose ball in the same period.

Embiid was also whistled for a flagrant in the foul-strewn contest in which neither of the expected Eastern Conference contenders wanted to give an inch.

Al Horford added 16 points for Philadelphia against the team he'd played for the past three seasons.

Gordon Hayward led the Celtics with 25 points. Jayson Tatum had 21 and Kemba Walker, making his Celtics debut, added 12.

Charlotte rookie PJ Washington, the 12th overall pick in the draft in June, made a splashy debut, scoring 27 points to help the Hornets to a nail-bitting 126-125 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Hornets coach James Borrego gave Washington the start in his first NBA game, saying he'd seen in the pre-season that the first-year player isn't afraid of the big moment.

Washington justified that faith, making his first three shots - all from three-point range.

Washington made seven of 11 from three-oint range - breaking the record of five three-pointers in an NBA debut held by Jake Layman and Donyell Marshall.

He helped Charlotte break their team record for treys in a game with 23 - one more than their prior mark.