After missing nearly two months with a shoulder injury, Kyrie Irving finally returned to the Brooklyn Nets lineup earlier this month. But his presence didn’t bring the immediate turnaround the Nets were hoping for. Though they blew out a bad Atlanta Hawks team in his first game back, the promptly dropped their next five as Irving struggled to shake off the rust.
Heading into Saturday night’s matchup with the Detroit Pistons, they were desperately in need of a win, especially considering that their lead over the Pistons for the eighth spot in the East was suddenly down to just a few games. And just when they needed him most, Irving stepped up with one of his best games in a Nets uniform. Pouring in 45 points on 15 of 30 shooting, and adding six rebounds and seven assists, Irving led the Nets to a surprisingly important 121-111 win.
For all of his faults, many of which have been on display in the past week or so, Irving is still one of the most dynamic scorers in the league, and when he heats up there’s almost nothing defenses can do to slow him down. The Pistons found that out firsthand in this one, as Irving became unstoppable in the second half. After just 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting in the first half, Irving went 10 of 17 for 33 points after the break to bring the Nets back from a 13-point deficit.
Whether it was driving inside, or pulling up for jumpers both inside and outside the arc, Irving was in one of his zones.
Irving has his fair share of faults, but man, there just aren’t many guys in the league who are more enjoyable to watch than when he has it going. His creativity with the dribble and around the rim borders more on art than sport. Just watch that finish in the video above that starts at the 1:09 mark; it’s unreal.
With the win, the Nets are now 19-25 on the season, and have a three and a half game lead over the Pistons and Chicago Bulls for the eighth spot. That’s a pretty solid cushion, but they might need a few more performances like this from Irving to really cement their spot.