If I told you Kyrie Irving was cooking on the court last night, you’d probably say, “OK, what’s new,” right? But Kyrie was on an entirely different level in Tuesday night’s 150-108 win against the Orlando Magic, going for 60 points in only 35 minutes of game action. Irving had 41 in the first half, and at one point, I thought he could approach Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
In scoring 60 points, Irving also stumbled into some history along the way. His best friend Kevin Durant posted a 53-point game in Brooklyn’s previous outing against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. This was the first time in NBA history that teammates scored 50-plus in back-to-back games. This monstrous showing from Irving came one night after Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns’ own 60-point game in a win over San Antonio. This marked the first time since 1962 that two players scored 60 points on consecutive nights.
As I mentioned, it felt like Kyrie was going to challenge Kobe’s record 81-point game the way he roasted the Magic. Irving was hot as a pot of grits. It wasn’t only the number of points he scored; it was how Kyrie executed his wizardry. Irving was so efficient in this game it was downright baffling. Irving scored his 60 on just 31 shots attempted. He made 20 shots from the field overall while also making 8 of 12 from three-point range. It doesn’t get much more efficient than that from a small guard in the NBA.
Although Irving’s still only a part-time player, teams in the Eastern Conference should be keeping an eye on where the Nets land in the postseason. Because of his part-time status, Kyrie should be fresher than anyone in the playoffs. So, we may even see a couple more of these tremendous scoring displays from Irving in the playoffs, whether it happens during the play-in tournament or during a seven-game series. Kyrie is dangerous, and the East should be on notice after Tuesday night.
Irving could miss up to three games in a first-round playoff series if the Nets make it through the play-in. Kevin Durant is great enough to get the Nets at least a couple of games against any of the top contenders in the east. Brooklyn would match up with Miami, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia in the first round. I think KD could potentially get the Nets two and certainly one game at the least from any of the top three teams in the East in a series. Then the Nets get Kyrie’s explosiveness alongside Durant and possibly Ben Simmons (hopefully) by then on the road. Even without Simmons, the Nets are a scary opponent for anyone in the East.
Don’t sleep on the Nets. Brooklyn could come out and upset one or two of the top teams in the east. Remember the ‘99 Knicks team led by Latrell Sprewell that made it to the NBA Finals? They were the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference that year and didn’t have nearly as much talent as the Nets. And that was with a past his prime, often injured Patrick Ewing that year. So, it could happen for the Nets. They’ll need a few breaks (like the Bucks & Suns last year) along the way, but it could happen.