Kyrie Irving accepts his own challenge to be better in 50 point performance vs. Hornets

Kyrie Irving
Nets guard Kyrie Irving defends against an inbound during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center.
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving challenged himself to be better, and on Tuesday night he answered his own call with a 50 point performance in a much-needed win for the Nets. Everyone should know how talented Irving is at this point in his career, but in case they didn’t, he reminded them how deadly he can be on the floor.

The Nets need that Kyrie on the floor now more than ever, especially with his time out there down to just five games because of his unvaccinated status. And that’s what they got when he took the floor and helped end the Nets’ four-game losing streak.

“I’ve been saying, it’s pure. Everything he does is pure,” Kevin Durant said about Irving’s effort against the Hornets. “It looks so easy tonight. I look up and he had 10 points and it felt like he only took two shots in the first quarter. I told Seth, ‘damn I didn’t know he had it cooking like that. I seen it in his eyes to start the game. He wanted to play better last game, so he came out here tonight and wanted to impact the game from the start. He led us all night.

“He hit big shots when he needed to and it was just an incredible, incredible performance. It’s something that younger players should watch this game and learn what it takes to score at that level. At 5’10” 5’11” for him to score that easy is just a master class.”

The night marked the third time Irving has reached 50 points in a single game as a Net and the fifth time in his career that it has occurred. It was also the second-most points scored against the Hornets ever by a Nets player.

Irving finished the night going 15-for-19 from the field, knocking down 9-of-12 shots from beyond the arc and going 11-for-13 from the free-throw line. And his 19 shots were tied for the second-fewest field goals attempted in a 50 point performance.

Asked if he knew how many points he had late in the game, Irving laughed and told reporters that he was aware but he was just letting things come to him.

The standout effort was one that Irving needed to have after a rough go of it in Boston two days earlier. The Nets superstar struggled from the field and finished the effort feeling like he needed to be better.

“As a professional in this game, I just feel like we’re put into positions where we have to respond,” Irving said. “And obviously I didn’t play my best game in Boston. I was quoted the other (day) just saying it was really emotional and just every time I step foot in there it just is what it is, I’m human.

“So going back, I know we’ll see Boston again, but tonight we just wanted to have a fresh start, and I know that me coming out playing aggressive, it sparks energy in our team and it just makes everyone else’s job a lot easier. It felt good tonight just to do it in the flow of the game. It wasn’t really forced. I wasn’t trying to go out there and get 50. It just ended up happening.”

Thursday’s trip to Philadelphia will be Irving’s last game of eligibility until March 15 when the Nets travel to Orlando. New York City’s private-sector vaccine mandate remains in effect and is preventing Irving from playing in the five boroughs.

The Nets’ win over the Hornets helped them leapfrog back into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn is in a dog fight the rest of the way as they try to clear a play-in round spot or battle for preferential seeding in the play-in tournament.