When Kevin Durant went down with a sprained MCL, sidelining him for 4-6 weeks, things looked rocky for the Brooklyn Nets but Kyrie Irving’s return to the lineup is quickly rebuilding the team’s confidence.
With the NBA’s leading scorer on the sidelines, Irving’s return to the Nets lineup couldn’t have come at a better time and game by game, the livewire guard is reminding the league just how unguardable he can be on his day.
In their 119-118 road win over the Washington Wizards, Irving danced around defenders, sliced his way to the rim and scored in bunches, finishing with a season-high 30 points and seven assists on 13-of-23 from the field, including some timely plays down the stretch.
His season-high combined with LaMarcus Aldridge’s season-high 27 points helped keep the Wizards at bay and the veteran forward says having Irving back has been “fun” as well as making the game easier for his teammates.
“[He] knows the game, plays the game the right way, gets me so many mid-range shots where the guys aren’t even close to me,” Aldridge said post-game.
“I played the most with him last year, I was there five games, my five games were more with him than anyone, so I feel like our chemistry came in those five games and I feel like this year we’ve kind of picked up where we left off. It’s been fun, he makes plays where you’re looking and your like man…you’re glad he’s on your team.
“It’s been fun for me to have him back, just fun to watch him play.”
In his five games this season, Irving is averaging 22.0 points, 5.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds on 50 percent shooting and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line.
With Durant set to remain on the sidelines, Irving maintaining this level of play will be crucial for the Nets to stay in the race at the top of the East’s standings, especially with 10 of their next 14 games coming on the road — all of which Irving will be available for, except their Feb. 16 visit to Madison Square Garden.
The Nets have gone 3-2 in the five games Irving has played, however, with him unavailable for home games, they sit a 3-9 since he’s been back with the team. Despite his part-time availability, head coach Steve Nash is happy with what he’s seen so far.
“It’s great, what a pleasure to coach him and have him on our team for the road games,” Nash said postgame. “He’s obviously such an electric player, such a talent, to add him to our team makes us better, he’s a pretty easy guy to try and fit.
“Tonight he was brilliant and a big part of why we won.”