NCAA Tournament

Kyrie Irving Gets Nets Back to Winning Ways

The latest offensive performances from Kyrie Irving has kept the Nets alive with the absence of Kevin Durant. He has put up astonishing numbers on the scoreboard with the Nets going 3-1 over their last four games. 

Irving has managed to step it up for the Nets in the past few games, scoring at least 30 points over the past four games. The Nets nearly took a game off of the Phoenix Suns in their matchup on January 19, but Irving struggled through the opening three quarters of the game. Irving entered the fourth quarter only putting up 9 points, but ended the game with 30 as the Nets lost 117-112.

Nicolas Claxton played extraordinarily well with 20 points and 11 rebounds, along with 16 points by Joe Harris. Seth Curry and Cam Thomas made some noise off the bench with Curry shooting 4-5 from the 3-point line, ending up with 16 points. Thomas ended with 15 points. 

The Suns put up a dominant performance despite injuries from superstars Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Mikal Bridges stepped up and scored 28 points and picked up nine assists, with Deandre Ayton putting up 24 points and 14 rebounds. Cam Johnson returned and played in his first game since November after suffering a meniscus tear, which took him out for 37 games of the season. Johnson had a great game that night, scoring 19 points with six rebounds and two blocks in his return. 

The Nets would finally snap their 4-game losing streak after Irving went on an offensive clinic against the Utah Jazz on January 20. Irving had an absolute historic performance, scoring 48 points. Irving scored 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, shooting 70% from the field and hitting four 3-pointers. This made it the second straight game that Irving scored 21 points in a single quarter. Irving made a season-high eight 3-pointers to help give back some momentum for the Nets and their first win since the loss of Durant.

Claxton had a swell night as well with 20 points and four blocks. The 29 points from Jordan Clarkson and 22 points from Lauri Markkanen was not enough for the Utah Jazz as they went down to the Nets 117-106.

In their matchup on January 22 against the Golden State Warriors, a clutch 3-pointer by Royce O’Neale in the fourth quarter with 28.1 seconds left put the Nets up by two points, with a pair of free-throws by Irving moments later sealed a win for the Nets. The Nets won their second straight game that night after being down by 12 points against the Warriors going into the fourth quarter. Despite no Kevin Durant, the Nets did not waver to the reigning champions and kept on cutting on the lead until they finally took control and were able to win the game 120-116.

Irving had an outstanding 38 points, shooting 5-7 from the 3-point line and was two points shy from scoring at least 40 points for his second consecutive game. Claxton had another great performance with 20 points and 15 rebounds, with Harris and O’Neale playing great as well with 14 points and 16 points respectively. 

Despite Stephen Curry playing great with 26 points and shooting 50% from the 3-point line, along with Jonathan Kuminga playing great off the bench with 20 points, the rest of the Warriors could not do enough offensively to defeat the Nets. Regardless of being unable to stop the Nets from scoring in the second-half, the rest of the Warriors offense struggled to put up more than 17 points.

Curry’s splash brother, Klay Thompson, did not do well offensively with 10 points and going 0-7 from the 3-point line. This benefitted the Nets in their case as they were able to garner a win and start to get things back on track for them.

While Irving was able to put up another 30 points against the 76ers on January 25th, it was not enough to take them down in a close 137-133 loss. While the Nets were able to come back from a 17-point deficit, they had no answers on defense for James Harden as he was able to hit two 3-pointers and a layup to give the 76ers the edge in the fourth to take the win and extend their winning streak to seven games.

It was a personal matchup out there with Ben Simmons and Harden facing their respective former teams, as there were words being said and stares between Simmons and his former teammate, Embiid. It would be Simmons’ first game back in Philadelphia since his trade back in February 2022.

The 76ers crowd was riled up when Simmons came into the game, with boos and jeers towards him throughout the game.  Simmons finished with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Curry had a remarkable night against the 76ers with 32 points off the bench, shooting 7-10 from the 3-point line. However, it was not enough to take down the 76ers with Harden gaining 23 points and Embiid with 26 points, making all 13 of his attempted free-throws. Tyrese Maxey having a great game of his own, scoring 27 points and shooting 6-9 from the 3-point line. 

The Nets seem to be adjusting well with the lack of the elite-level offensive threat that is Durant. Irving has stepped up big time as the offensive backbone for the Nets, having scored at least 30 points these past four games. The rest of the Nets' roster has been playing great as well, especially Claxton who has put up marvelous numbers for the Nets and has been a key part of their recent success outside of the historic performances that Irving has put up.

The Nets could be a true force of nature if they constantly play like this with the addition of Durant returning back to the lineup fairly soon. Irving has been able to put the team on his back and keep the Nets afloat in the Eastern Conference and having Durant back into shape will put the Nets as one of the top teams heading into the All-Star break.

The Nets look to play and get back to their winning ways as they face the Detroit Pistons on January 26.