For the second time in two nights, one of the NBA’s 30 single-game team scoring records has fallen.
Twenty-four hours after Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns went off for 60 points in San Antonio, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving matched him with a 60-spot of his own in Orlando, surpassing the previous franchise mark of 57 set by Deron Williams on March 4, 2012.
Irving’s outburst — also a career high — came just two games after he poured in 50 on a ridiculous 19 shots against Charlotte. He wasn’t quite as efficient against the Magic, but not by much. Averaging nearly two points per attempt, Irving shot 20-for-31 from the floor, including 8-for-12 on 3-pointers, and was nearly perfect at the foul line (12-for-13).
Jersey putting up numbers.
— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) March 16, 2022
Ky stop it man!!! Actually don’t 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 16, 2022
As those free-throw attempts would attest, Irving attacked the rim with his usual aplomb, hitting at least one hanging, spinning layup that seemed to defy the laws of physics. But with 13 of his 20 makes coming from outside the paint, the degree of difficulty was almost as impressive as his final total.
“When you can get 60 in the flow of the game and you’re not putting up too many bad shots and guys are supporting you, telling you to go after the record, that makes basketball well worth it,” said Irving, whose previous career high had been 57 points with the Cavaliers against San Antonio in 2015. “The ball was hopping, Steve (Nash) was calling my number, and I was getting into the paint doing what I do.”
“The night after Karl Towns had an incredible performance, and then to have Kyrie do it the next night, the league is in an amazing place right now,” Nets teammate Kevin Durant said. “We’re seeing a lot of talent displayed every night, and this was one of the elite ones.”
Irving and Durant made history, becoming the first teammates in NBA history to post 50-point performances in consecutive games.
The stage for Irving’s record night was set in the first half, when Kyrie scored a staggering 41 points — the same total as Wilt Chamberlain during his record 100-point night in 1962. It was the most by an NBA player in the first two quarters since Kobe Bryant had 42 against Washington on March 28, 2003. Additionally, his 41 points in the first half are the most in any half of an NBA game since Devin Booker scored 51 in his 70-point game in 2017.
As the game wore on and the points piled up, the Magic began to abandon any sound defensive scheme, instead aggressively double-teaming Irving in the hopes of forcing the ball out of his hands.
It didn’t work. Although Irving finished with “only” 19 in the second half, he also played just 12 minutes as the Nets ran away for a 42-point blowout. Magic fans responded in kind, treating Irving — not exactly the NBA’s most popular player given his ongoing COVID-19 vaccine saga — to multiple standing ovations in appreciation of his record-setting display of skill.
“A few shots I probably shouldn’t have taken. Tough ones, with double-teams and triple-teams coming,” he said. “But as long as I can do it with a smile on my face and my teammates weren’t too angry with me, it was worthwhile.”
🔥 60 PTS
🔥 8 3PM
🔥 64.5 FG%
And we've got every bucket for your enjoyment ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/A47LfuHY5X
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 16, 2022
Content to sit back and enjoy the show as well, Durant took only nine shots to finish with a tidy 19 points. It was a far cry from his previous game, when the Nets needed every one of his 53 points to hold off the Knicks at Barclays Center as Irving was forced to watch from the sidelines due New York City’s vaccine mandate.
A historic night.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 16, 2022
The back-to-back 50-point outings from Durant and Irving also marked their sixth 50-point outing in only two active seasons together: four for Irving and two for Durant. Every other player in Nets history, dating back to their inception in 1967 as the ABA’s New Jersey Americans? Seven. (And remember: This is a franchise that once suited up Julius Erving in his prime.)
Additionally, the Nets became the first team to have three individual 50-point games over a four-game span since Bryant scored 50 in four straight games from March 16-23 in 2007.
“Across the league, guys are putting up crazy numbers,” Irving said. “But when you have two guys on the same team, competing — friendly competition, brotherly competition — of course we talk about it. We really want to be savants at this. We take the game serious. We want to be efficient with it.”
So Irving’s masterpiece was as much a warning as a fresh entry in Brooklyn’s record book. Even as the Nets (36-33) continue to languish in eighth place, 3.5 games behind sixth-place Cleveland in the Play-In zone and a dwindling schedule to make up ground, can you imagine a worse “reward” for taking a top spot in your conference than having to defend Irving and Durant for seven games?
Provided, of course, Irving’s even available for all seven. He’s missed 50 of Brooklyn’s 69 games this season, and despite mounting frustration from the Nets over NYC’s mandate, there’s only one month for a course reversal before the Play-In Tournament begins on April 12.
But for one game, at least, that dispute was shunted aside and the focus remained where it should be: On the hardwood, where Irving proved once again that on any given night, he’s about as good as there is at putting the ball in the basket.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.