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Introspective Kyrie Irving lifts Nets late despite off night



Smoothie King Center

NEW ORLEANS – Despite finishing a 22-7 shooting night, Kyrie Irving couldn’t help but smile as he walked off the court following a 108-102 win over the Pelicans on Friday at the Smoothie King Center.

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As has been the case throughout his ill-fated career, the 30-year-old hit the biggest shot of the night: a 30-foot 3-pointer with just 43 seconds remaining, giving the Nets their 13th win. in the game. last 14 games.

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“I finally made a shot,” Irving said.

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Over the past month and a half, the Nets have harnessed the hot hands of Irving and star forward Kevin Durant to dominate the teams offensively, but Friday’s victory provided yet another triumph as the group overcame a poor shooting night. in which the dynamic pair finished just 16 of 48 from the field.

In a game that could have gotten away from the Nets, it was a thoughtful Irving who helped save the day.

“Basketball is a very simple art form,” Irving said. “So if I don’t bring all my extra distractions or whatever I’m mentally going through into the game, then I feel like we have a great chance to win every game.”

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The Nets have made winning a habit since new head coach Jacque Vaughn officially took over in early November. The group continues to play with a mental toughness that was not present at the start of the season. That edge continues to shine for Irving since he returned from his eight-game suspension following a social media post promoting a book and movie centered on anti-Semitic tropes.

“He just has a way of embracing that moment no matter what’s come before,” Vaughn said. “And Kevin kicking the ball, and Kevin kind of having an iso in the elbow, shows how they’ve grown together. But [Irving] He has an incredible ability to erase what came before and be in the moment and make the most of that moment and shine.”

Irving said he has worked on his mental approach to the game over the last year, an approach Durant believes is a key reason Irving can still succeed no matter how much he struggled early in the game.

“It’s about like a minute in the game,” Durant said. “That’s how calm and relaxed he is. Even though the stakes are different at the beginning and end of the game, I still believe it’s the same regardless of the time on the clock. He plays that way, calm and collected, in control under pressure in difficult times.Feels like a walk in the park for him.

“The greats understand that every possession matters and if you hold your ground throughout the game, you’re generally in good shape in the fourth.”

So how did Irving hone the approach he has now?

“Study the greats and fight to be bigger than them,” Irving said. “You look at some of the great representatives of professional sports among the people, most of the time you see that there is a similarity, there is a similarity between the way they control emotions at the end of the game.

“I’ve been able to learn that over time, but I think the biggest thing I’ve been able to learn this year is being with the guys, discipline, going through a lot externally or internally and us just figuring it out.” .”

The Nets continue to find ways to win games instead of finding ways to lose them, like they did earlier in the season. They are the hottest team in the league and a group that still believes their best is ahead of them. As they prepared for a flight to Miami before Sunday’s game against the Heat, Irving wasn’t the only member of the team’s traveling party smiling at what they’d just accomplished.

“We’ve had a lot of wins so far this season, this one really stands out to me,” Vaughn said. “Just because [we’re in an] Opposite court, 11 down, didn’t shoot the ball well, and for us to keep it, not lose our balance on the way to believe that we can win. And even going through a stretch where we weren’t taking shots to try to defend, to stay together, to stick to the game plan, says a lot about the group, how they’ve grown together. A really impressive win, especially on the road after a loss.”


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