Kyrie Irving Hits the History Books with 54 Points

Nets guard showed a little something different with big finish

Kyrie Irving left the Barclays Center crowd amazed and elevated on Friday night with a historic performance in a 133-118 win against the Chicago Bulls.

Irving’s 54 points came on 82.6 percent shooting, only the third time in NBA history a player had scored 50-plus points on that level of efficiency. The only other two to do so? Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

“Well, when you’re that hot, you expect a guy to come down like it always usually happens,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson. “You’re so hot, you have to; he never came down. Even that fastbreak one at the end there, where he circled around and he hit a tough shot, pull-up in the lane. He’s just got a knack. He was 8-for-8 at the rim. His finishing was superb. And when he shoots it like that from three, it’s tough to stop. Tough guard.”

It was also the second-highest scoring game in franchise history, though just shy of the career-high 57 Irving scored in an overtime game in 2015.

“He can always do this,” said Jarrett Allen, “but finally being able to see it in person, I was like, don’t pass me the ball, just go ahead and do it. He was shooting 100 percent. What more could anybody ask for?”

Irving didn’t quite finish at 100 percent, but he was there for a while. Right through halftime in fact. In the end, he made 19-of-23 field goals, 7-of-9 3-pointers, and 9-of-10 free throws.

“It felt incredible, but when you know that you have a game in 18 hours, you feel as good as you can and you just want to carry that over into the next game and then just feel as good about your shot,” said Irving. “But the performance, just from an overall team game, I think obviously there’s some things to correct, but they were in the right spots and I was just was getting to my spots, raising up and I was staying aggressive in transition and just doing what I do best.”

Irving opened up the scoring and then closed out the Bulls. He knocked down a 3-pointer for the first basket and had seven of Brooklyn’s first nine points. By the end of the first quarter he had 16 points. Midway through the second quarter came a four-point play, drawing a foul and draining a 3-pointer.

All through the night, Irving buried the Bulls from every corner of the floor. He navigated traffic to finish amongst crowds at the rim, part of Brooklyn’s 60 points in the paint. He pulle up for short jumpers and was crisp beyond the arc.

Irving closed the first half with a flourish, dropping in an easy layup, then swiping the ball from Chicago’s Tomas Satoransky just short of halfcourt, pulling up for a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and send the Nets into halftime with 73 points and a 16-point lead.

“He could have really left me standing there if he put it between my legs or something crazy,” said Irving of Satoransky, “but I was fortunate enough to get the steal and try to get my elbow pointed at the rim and lined it up.”

And when Chicago cut the Brooklyn lead to seven points going into the fourth quarter, Irving took over again. He scored 10 straight Nets points, 17 total in the quarter, to close out the Bulls.

On his way off the court, Irving shared an embrace with Atkinson. His excellence was a high point on a week in which he and his teammates dealt with a crushing low, the death of Irving’s mentor and NBA icon Kobe Bryant.

“I think you saw it again at the end there, Kyrie obviously pointing up to the sky,” said Atkinson. “I think it’s still there, that emotion is still there, but you know, that can work two ways right? You can be emotionally drained or it can emotionally lift you and I think it’s lifted us, I feel like it’s brought us together. Kyrie has obviously raised his game to an elite level after experiencing something like that is very impressive.”

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