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Irving’s historic 60-point night paces Nets

Historic scoring effort leads surging Brooklyn over Orlando

March 15, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are playing a game of top this.

And the resurgent Brooklyn Nets couldn’t be happier about it.

Two nights after Durant put up a season-high 53 points at Barclays Center, Irving poured in a career-best and franchise-record 60 Tuesday night in Orlando as the Nets slaughtered the Magic, 150-108, in front of 15,282 at the Amway Center.

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Irving, banned from playing home games in Brooklyn due to New York City’s vaccination mandates, made 20-of-31 shots from the field, including 8-of-12 from beyond the arc.

“We saw he was well on his way to a high-scoring night,” Durant noted. “He’s in an amazing place right now.”

The still-unvaccinated point guard grabbed six rebounds, handed out four assists, picked up four steals, blocked a shot and went 12-of-13 at the line to cap a virtuoso performance that broke Deron Williams’ single-game team scoring record by three points.

“It’s just incredible,” Nets head coach Steve Nash gushed. “He’s special to watch every night. Nights like this, he’s in total control, total command. A pleasure to see it up close and to be a part of it.”

The win was Brooklyn’s fourth in a row and moved the Nets (36-33) 3 1/2 games behind Cleveland (39-29) for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, averting a potential play-in tournament.

Brooklyn is eighth in the overall East standings, six games in front of 11th place Washington, the first team out of the postseason as things stand now. If the Nets can’t get as high as the No. 6 seed, they will be forced to play a four-team tournament for the final two playoff spots.

Getting Irving to play in our borough has been a growing issue around the team as Mayor Eric Adams remains steadfast in maintaining his COVID-19 protocols.

Kyrie Irving scored 41 of his career-high 60 points in the first half of the Nets’ blowout win in Orlando Tuesday. AP Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack

But Irving has made the most of his opportunities away from Barclays this year. He scored 50 points in a win at Charlotte on March 8 and Durant followed suit Sunday vs. the Knicks on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

He had 41 first-half points Tuesday as the Nets ran out to a 48-30 lead after one quarter and never looked back.

“You can’t do this every night. When someone is rolling like that, you stay out of his way,” Nash said.

Irving and Durant became the first teammates in NBA history to score at least 50 points in back-to-back games, a trend that the tandem can continue Wednesday night against Dallas in Brooklyn, only without Irving.

Ben Simmons, the player Brooklyn received in the trade-deadline blockbuster trade with Philadelphia for James Harden last month, could be available for duty before the final 13 regular-season games are through.

The enigmatic playmaker hasn’t hit the hardwood in earnest for either a game or practice since last May, but is preparing to return after dealing with back issues since his arrival.

“He’s just doing his rehab, strengthening,” Nash said of Simmons. “We’re still doing that side of things rather than court work right now.”

Moritz Wagner had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic (18-52), who dropped their second in a row.

Durant finished with 19 points and Patty Mills drilled five 3-pointers for 15 as Brooklyn remained 1 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Atlanta.

Two nights after scoring 53 vs. the Knicks, Kevin Durant watched teammate Kyrie Irving put up 60 in Orlando Tuesday. AP Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack

After hosting Dallas on Wednesday, the Nets will welcome Portland to the Barclays Center on Friday and Utah next Monday.

Irving is next scheduled to play on March 23 at Memphis.

Unless, of course, he gets permission to take the floor right here in Brooklyn.

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