NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving played in 29 games throughout 2021-22 before delivering his best performance in Game 1 of the Nets’ best-of-7 opening-round series against the Boston Celtics.
Irving scored a game-high 39 points on 12-of-20 attempts from the floor, including a whopping six 3-pointers in a losing effort, as Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum scored the game-winning layup in a 115-114 Celtics win. Kyrie’s performances since then have been lackluster, and that’s saying the least.
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He scored 26 points on 10-of-30 shots, 0-of-8 from deep in his last two outings, including Saturday’s 109-103 Game 3 loss at the Barclays Center.
Kyrie Irving on The Nets’ Struggles: ‘We Know What it is’
Irving and Kevin Durant netted 16 points each, which was no match for Tatum’s 39-point, 6-steal performance. The Celtics star guided his team to an emphatic win.
“There’s not much to say. I mean, we know what it is,” Irving said after Game 3’s loss. “I think a few of us in this locker room have either been in this position on the winning side or on the losing side. So, you just got to take your lesson. Learn what you can from this and just get ready for Monday, you know? Time to hold your head, no time to think about what everyone else is saying — just go play basketball.”
Brooklyn is on the brink of elimination. The Nets have lacked team continuity, grit, and consistency throughout the series.
Irving: ‘The Team in The Other Locker Room is Gelling’
After going 10-5 of their last 15 games of the regular season, the Nets attempted to carry their momentum into the postseason. However, the Celtics’ defense on Irving and Durant has been instrumental to their success — a 3-0, first-round lead — especially in Games 2 and 3.
“In terms of our spirit, I think, being in what we call the trenches, or being in a series like this, we’re just trying to gel, and usually you’re gelling around the right time,” Irving said. “The team in the other locker room is gelling at the right time. They’ve been gelling since Christmas. So, for us, we’re just in a new experience as a group, and we just got to respect that. Bring everything we can to this next game and just do one possession at a time.
“I don’t want to be too clique, but I don’t have a lot of answers for how you make up time from October until now when usually teams will be gelling, and things would be feeling good.”
Why Kyrie Irving Was a Part of The Problem, Solution
It’s challenging to listen to Irving preach about the importance of team chemistry without hearing Kyrie mentioning his faults. There is solace in watching someone stand up for what they believe in, which is Irving’s case is his reluctance to get a vaccine — which would have led to Irving playing in more than just 29 games throughout the regular season.
But, it’s also something worth mentioning when addressing team continuity.
“You could put it one me in terms of playing better, controlling the game better, controlling our possessions, being more in a stance, not turning the ball over as much,” Irving added. “I had five fouls tonight. So, you can put it on me, more of just doing more and holding guys accountable; the same way I’m held accountable.”
For Irving, his part in Brooklyn’s shortcomings extend beyond his recent performances in their best-of-7 series. Still, Irving refuses to acknowledge that he played a significant role in the Nets’ inability to “gell” as a team.
The domino effect — ala All-Star James Harden wanting out and Brooklyn receiving Seth Curry and an inactive Ben Simmons — essentially changed the Nets’ outlook on finishing the year strong as one of the premier teams in the Eastern Conference.
Irving played a role in the problems that have plagued the 2021-22 Nets. They’re only one loss away from elimination and searching for solutions.