Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Kyrie Irving’s 50-point outburst reminds everyone what he can do and takes Nets above .500

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reminded everyone just how lethal of a scorer he is on Tuesday night when he dropped 50 points in a win over the Charlotte Hornets. Irving’s offensive outburst couldn’t come at a more perfect time for the Nets, who had previously lost the last four games, and were 3-17 in their last 20 contests leading into tonight.

From the opening tip of the game, Irving got whatever he wanted against a porous Charlotte defense that ranks 20th in the league in defensive rating. But the second half of the game, with the Nets already ahead 69-43 behind Irving’s 20 points in the first half, is where he did a bulk of his damage to ensure the Hornets couldn’t come back in the game. Irving went 5-of-7 from downtown and racked up 30 of his 50 points in the final two frames of action.

“You just wanna really put your stamp on a game early and then be able to play the game the right way,” Irving said after his stellar performance. “And that’s what we did tonight.” 

It was just one of those nights for Irving, who shot a supremely efficient 78.9 percent from the field (15-19), and 75 percent from 3-point territory (9-12). His impressive stat line made him the first player in NBA history to record 50 points while making nine 3-pointers and shooting 75 percent from downtown. Over half of Irving’s 50-point stunner — 27 points to be exact — came from 3-pointers, and it was just the third time in his career where he connected on nine or more 3s in a game. The last time that happened was a season ago when he put up 40 points in a win over the Sacramento Kings while going 9-11 from deep. Surprisingly, that’s not the highest number of 3s Irving’s made in a game. That happened back in 2015 when he was still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and went 11-for-19 from beyond the arc in a 55-point performance in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

After the game, Irving admitted that he was keeping an eye on his point total as he inched closer to the 50-point mark, and noted that tonight’s performance was a welcomed bounce-back game after the loss to the Boston Celtics when chants of “Kyrie sucks” rained down on him from his former team’s fanbase. 

“Obviously, I didn’t play the best game in Boston…every time I step foot in there, it is what it is,” Irving said.

Perhaps what’s most impressive about this 50-point game from Irving is the ridiculous efficiency he had. Irving needed just 19 shots to get there, making it the most efficient 50-point game by far of his career. In his previous four 50-point plus performances, Irving’s needed an average of 31 shots to reach that benchmark, so his efficiency against the Hornets is astounding.

“He’s incredible, it’s a career highlight reel every night,” Nash said after the game. “We obviously have a special player on our hands, and tonight he was unbelievably efficient, difficult to defend and although we liked to think we had the game in hand there were some possessions where he bailed us out from getting close to single digits. Overall he’s just an incredible player and shot maker.”

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Teammate Kevin Durant echoed Nash’s praise of Irving after the game.

“I’ve been saying it — it’s pure, everything he does is pure,” Durant said of Irving’s performance. “It looked so easy tonight. I look up, he got 10 points and it felt like he took two shots in the first quarter. I told Seth, ‘damn I didn’t know he had it cooking like that.’ I saw it in his eyes to start the game. He wanted to play better last game, so he wanted to come out here tonight and impact the game from the start. 

He led us all night, hit big shots when he needed to, and it was just an incredible, incredible performance. Younger players should watch this game and learn what it takes to score at that level. At 5-10, 5-11, for him to score that easy — it was just a master class.”

Next up for the Nets is a showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers, where Brooklyn will take on former teammate James Harden for the first time after he was sent to Philly ahead of the trade deadline in February. There will be great anticipation surrounding that game, and while Ben Simmons won’t be on the court to face his former team after being sent to the Nets as part of that Harden deal, he will be on the sidelines. When Irving was asked after the game about his potential matchup against Harden, he focused on how much Brooklyn wants that win.

“It makes for good stories. It makes for good narratives. It makes for good build-up for our league,” Irving said. “It’s never too personal, but we understand that as competitors, we want to win the game.”

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