When it comes time for the Nets and Kyrie Irving to discuss his future with the organization, Saturday’s fourth-quarter performance will be just one of the footnotes the guard will present as to why he is an invaluable weapon for Brooklyn.
In their ninth straight win over the Knicks, Irving put up 21 fourth-quarter points and shot 8-for-15 for the final 12 minutes of the game as he helped fend off the Knicks. In fact, Irving’s fourth-quarter dominance is just about the best in the NBA.
Irving is averaging 9.6 points per game in the fourth, which is better than both LeBron James (8.8) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (8.2). It’s no secret how important that is for the Nets to have a closer like that on their roster, especially while Kevin Durant is sidelined.
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“Being able to kind of as the game progresses, to understand what the team needs,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said about what has made Irving so good in the fourth. “What shot is needed, whether it’s a two whether it’s a drive, whether it’s a driving kick, whether it’s screening for Seth so Seth can turn the corner. Whether it’s pulling up early for a three-ball to ignite your team. I think he’s in a great position of what’s needed and he’s delivering the need. So give him a lot of credit for that.”
Irving talked about not wanting to mess with the rhythm of the team in the fourth and just finding the right shots to take. He credited the teammates around him for making it so easy for him to thrive in that environment, but the Nets coach also pointed out how Irving’s play helped build up the confidence of the team in such a crucial moment of the game.
“There’s a comfort level that kind of permeates with the rest of the group. Like we’re going to get a quality possession right here,” Vaughn said. “We’re gonna get a good shot right here and it’s probably going to go in. So there it relieves some of the stress that could happen at the end of the game with the other guys. I think that’s really the key of having dudes who can just get you a bucket at the end of the game.”
Irving has been that guy for the Nets this season and without Durant on the floor, he has become the offensive spearhead for Brooklyn. The point guard has solidified that over the past five games where he has scored 48, 38, 30, 40 and most recently 32 over the Knicks.
The superstar is in the final year of his contract and after all the ups and downs during his tenure with the Nets his play is speaking volumes right now for Brooklyn to bring him back. Irving is headed to the All-Star Game in a couple of weeks and will be a starter alongside Durant, if he does participate in this year’s festivities.
It’s easy to see why the Nets have remained hesitant about committing to Irving beyond this season. His availability on the court has been and issue in years past and earlier this year the team suspended him for eight games after he shared a link on his social media accounts of a film that had antisemitic rhetoric in it.
Since then Irving has remained focused on basketball and the Nets have benefitted from it on the court. He has already expressed through his agent a desire to stay in Brooklyn long-term, but the Nets have not engaged in contract extension talks.
But it will be hard to continue to push that matter down the road if his play continues to stay at the level it has been. And he has shown a sense of pride in of being the go-to guy on the floor in big situations.
I take a lot of pride in just the way I approach my days with my teammates, with the organization, of course, we my family,” Irving said. “But the way I approach this is really giving me the successes this season. Not being too high or too low, just being even-keeled. Just enjoying the journey. The wins and losses come and go, but the emotional maturity that you can learn from performances game to game is just as important as taking care of your body mentally and spiritually.”
For more Nets coverage, visit amNY.com and our affiliate site at TheBrooklynGame.com
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