When Kyrie Irving scores 54 points and misses just four times from the field to do it (19-for-23), you probably aren’t going to beat the Brooklyn Nets. Friday night, that theory held as the Nets beat the Chicago Bulls 133-118 in Brooklyn in a battle of the eighth and ninth seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Irving had 54 points, five assists, five rebounds, and hit seven 3-pointers. The Nets as a team shot 62.5 percent from the field and 15-of-31 from 3-land. It was a historic night for the Nets star:
Kyrie Irving tonight— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 1, 2020
19/23 from the field
7/9 from three
9/10 from the line
Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have ever scored over 50 points and had a higher field goal percentage in NBA history. What a historic night for Kyrie.
Irving and Kobe Bryant were close. That is who Irving was playing for, and he hinted at this in his postgame interview on the Nets broadcast, so it’s hard to be upset that the scoring outburst came against the Bulls. Kobe would have been proud of him.
A string of plays in the fourth where Irving hit a pull-up and Jarrett Allen sent a shot from Coby White into the next dimension leading into a break at the other end that was fancily finished by Irving allowed the Nets to go up 11. On the next possession, Irving hit a 3-pointer for his 44th point of the game. Kyrie then proceeded to get a tough layup to go on the next possession, forced a foul, and hit a free throw. On the back of the 6-foot-2-inch Irving, the Nets pulled away late after the Bulls had scraped back into the game after going down 21 points in the second quarter.
The Bulls dug that hole for themselves early, suffering through a lethargic start after Kris Dunn went down on the first play of the game with a knee injury after colliding with Thaddeus Young. Dunn was able to walk off the court on his own power, but he didn’t return to the game. He is heading back to Chicago to meet with Bulls doctors.
The Bulls went down 59-38 midway through the second quarter and looked like they were going to get blown out of Barclays Center. They surged to within 11 points behind a nice Shaquille Harrison stint, but Irving’s cherry-picked layup and then a steal and 3-pointer at the very end of the half allowed the Nets to hit the halftime showers up 16 points:
The Nets scored a season-high 73 points in the half, hitting on exactly two-thirds of their shot attempts. They were also 8-for-15 from behind the 3-point stripe. For context, this all came from a Nets team that has been playing awful the last two weeks. Since Jan. 14, they had been 2-6, and their only wins came against the Detroit Pistons.
Irving hit all 10 of his shot attempts in the first half, piling up 27 points in the process. He was unstoppable and hit a ton of shots with a high degree of difficulty. Former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie also got off to a hot start, going for 15 points in the first half and 20 for the game. When it wasn’t Dinwiddie and Irving killing the Bulls, it was Jarrett Allen rolling to the basket for uncontested layups and dunks. He was 4-for-4 from the field in the first half en route to a 12/5/5 performance.
The Bulls made things interesting with a 39-point third quarter, going into the fourth quarter down just 103-96 after a Chandler Hutchison steal and dunk. Chicago had its chances to make the game closer to start the fourth quarter, but they failed to take advantage and then Irving returned to the game and put it away.
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 22 points and eight assists, and he was joined by five other players in double figures, with Luke Kornet even going for 19 points. Chicago shot nearly 49% from the field and scored 73 points over the middle two quarters, but there was just no hope stopping Kyrie. Dunn’s injury certainly hurt, but Irving was in his bag all night. The 20 turnovers were the only thing slowing Brooklyn down.
The Bulls are now 3.5 games behind the Magic for the No. 8 seed, with the Nets four games ahead in the No. 7 slot. Chicago is 0-17 against Eastern Conference playoff teams, which is truly amazing. The Bulls have another East playoff team on deck Sunday when they travel to Toronto to face the red-hot Raptors for their final game before the trade deadline.