How could he not be Top 75?
Kyrie Irving set a new scoring career high, torching the Magic for 60 points at Orlando’s Amway Center to propel the Nets to a 150-108 victory on Tuesday night. He set a new Nets NBA record, surpassing Deron Williams’ 2012 mark of 57 points, and a new career high – an early layer of the icing on the cake of what has shaped out to be a sure-fire Hall of Fame career.
“He’s just incredible. It felt like he had my career highlight reel in the first 12 minutes of the game,” said Nets head coach Steve Nash. “It’s special to watch him every night but it’s special to watch him on nights like this where he’s in total control, total command, gets wherever he wants and is able to finish amongst the trees. It’s a pleasure to see it up close and to be a part of it.”
Julius Erving scored 63 points for the Nets in an ABA game against San Diego in 1975, which is the Nets’ all-time franchise mark.
Irving, the Nets’ superstar guard, did his damage early, scoring 41 points in the first half alone. Only four players have scored more in an opening half than Irving did on Tuesday: Kobe Bryant in 2003 (42); Wilt Chamberlain in 1962 (45); and both David Thompson and George Gervin, who each scored 53 points in the first half chasing the 1978 scoring title in final games of their respective seasons. (Gervin won the title scoring 10 more points in the second half).
“It’s just like that every game for Kai — when you look up you’re like, ‘Damn, he got 10, 12, 14 points already,” said Irving’s superstar teammate, Kevin Durant. “We’d seen he was well on his way to a high scoring night. So, 60 the night after Karl Towns had an incredible performance, and have Kyrie do it the next night, the league is an amazing place right now and you’re seeing a lot of talent and skill be on display every night and this was one of the elite ones.”
Irving’s performance has moved him even further into NBA history: It’s his second 50-point night in three games, and he and co-star Kevin Durant are one of only three duos in NBA history to score 50 points within three games of one another. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson did so for the Golden State Warriors in a four-game span in 2018, and Larry Bird and Kevin McHale each scored 50-plus for the Celtics in a five-game stretch in 1985.
Irving and Durant also become the first pair of teammates to have 50-point nights in consecutive games. Durant torched the Knicks for 53 points on Sunday while Irving watched from the sidelines.
“Making history man, making history,” Irving said. And doing it with that guy (Durant) is very special.”
It’s undeniable: Irving is among legends. He is one of the best scorers NBA history has ever seen. A lesser player wouldn’t be worth going to war against New York City’s confusing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.[More Sports] Bruce Brown is having a breakout second half of the season for the Nets »
Which begs the question: Are there 75 basketball players more accomplished, more skilled in their roles, more illustrious in NBA history? Irving also hit the side-step three over Curry in Game 7 of 2016 NBA Finals to deliver the Cleveland Cavaliers their only championship in NBA history.
Compounding Irving’s production is his all-time efficiency. Last season, Irving averaged 27 points on 50.6% shooting from the field, 40% shooting from three and 92% shooting from the foul line. Against the Magic on Tuesday, Irving missed only three shots in a spectacular first half where he shot 14-of-17 from the field, including six-of-seven from downtown and a perfect five-of-five from the line.
He finished the night 20-of-31 from the field, 8-of-12 from downtown and 12-of-13 from the charity stripe.
“It was just about the team, really just like getting in flow,” Irving said. “That’s the true pure purity of this game, is doing it efficiently, doing it on both ends of the floor and then coming out with the W. So I’m just glad that it wasn’t an empty 50-Plus game and then we could go back home and just get things started again tomorrow.”
It was a special night for a special player, a player who was snubbed from the NBA’s 75th Anniversary List – a list of the 75 players hand-picked by what the league defined as “a blue-ribbon panel of current and former NBA players, coaches, general managers and team and league executives, WNBA legends and sportswriters and broadcasters.”[More Sports] Nets fined $50K for letting unvaxxed Kyrie Irving into locker room »
Here are active players who made the list over Irving: the entire Los Angeles Lakers trio of Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook; Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard; Irving’s teammate Kevin Durant; his former teammate James Harden; Suns’ “point god” Chris Paul; and Portland’s Damian Lillard.
Irving’s scoring night served a dual purpose: It further enshrined him in NBA history and helped keep mileage off Durant’s legs. The All-Star guard’s scoring barrage came on the first game of a back-to-back, and Durant played the lightest 30 minutes of his season, which gives him relatively fresh legs for Wednesday’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.
“I love sitting in the fourth and seeing my teammates go out there and play great basketball and finish off a win for us,” said Durant, who only attempted nine shots for his 19 points, the fewest attempts in any full game he’s played this season. “Games like tonight are pretty cool to me where we can watch an incredible performance like that from an individual, but also from our team and the way we shot the ball… So just trying to do what’s required of me tonight. and I didn’t need to do much.”