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Duke in the NBA: Barrett and Tatum face off in Madison Square Garden, Irving returns part-time for Nets

<p>RJ Barrett played the hero for the Knicks Thursday, while there is still no timetable for Zion Williamson's (right) return to the NBA.</p>

RJ Barrett played the hero for the Knicks Thursday, while there is still no timetable for Zion Williamson's (right) return to the NBA.

It's been an eventful week for former Blue Devils in the pros. Read all about in this week's edition of Duke in the NBA:

Barrett beats Boston at the buzzer

Duke teams perform well at Madison Square Garden, even earning the historic venue the moniker of “Cameron North.” On Thursday, Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics jumped out to a 24-point lead in the second quarter, and the contest looked all but finished. The former Duke forward notched nine assists and 36 points in a near-heroic performance in New York, but the Knicks clawed their way back to being the lead late in the fourth quarter behind 41 points from Evan Fournier. With 2.2 seconds left in the game, Tatum stepped back near the right elbow and nailed an 18-footer to tie the game at 105...but the night belonged to third-year Knick RJ Barrett.

After Tatum’s improbable leveler, 2018-19 Duke guard Barrett received the bounce pass inbound in stride near the logo, took three steps towards the right wing and launched an off-balance 3-pointer despite a smothering defensive effort by Tatum. The ball banked off the glass and swished through the net as time expired, and the Knicks won 108-105, their first game-winning buzzer-beater since 2012.

Zion leaves the Bayou temporarily

2019 No. 1 overall pick and Duke one-and-done Zion Williamson injured his foot during the offseason and hasn’t seen game action since last May. On Dec. 16, the Pelicans announced that their young franchise centerpiece experienced another setback in the healing of a bone in his foot and would miss even more time despite an original projected return of before the NBA regular season. Evidently, Williamson still will require more time to recover from the injury, as the team released a statement from the forward on Jan. 5 indicating that he will step away from the team to rehabilitate on his own. It’s unclear when Williamson will return to play, as his health remains a concern with the existing injury and controversy surrounding his physical build circulates around the media.

Irving returns to the court

Kyrie Irving can’t legally suit up for the Nets in Brooklyn due to his refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine. After in-depth consideration by the team during preseason, the front office and coaching staff decided not to allow Irving to participate in road games despite legal eligibility in most NBA venues, save New York City and Toronto, Canada. However, as the Omicron variant decimated the team’s depth, the Nets reintroduced Irving back into the lineup for games in which he is legally allowed to participate. The superstar guard returned to face the Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday, scoring 22 points on 52.9% shooting along with four assists despite his sabbatical from the league. Irving is eligible to play in 21 of the Nets’ remaining 45 regular-season games, but he will not be able to play at Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden or Scotiabank Arena barring a drastic shift in New York’s vaccine mandate for gyms or Canada’s vaccine mandate for international travelers.

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