To win a basketball game, dominating the last quarter is key, and dominating it defines teams and players.
Sometimes weighed down by his ability to get into trouble, Kyrie Irving has found his place in the world and, without Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets, he’s at MVP level, the level he always thought he would maintain but lost because of highly questionable decisions.
In the New York City derby against the Knicks, Irving put on another exhibition. In three quarters he scored 11 points – zero in the third – but in the fourth he broke out.
He netted 21 points and showed his team will be a candidate for everything when Durant returns.
He did everything. From the outside he scored after a catch and shoot, he generated his shots outside the paint and forced one-on-ones. And, to finish, he killed the game with a long three-pointer after a step back that wrong-footed Quentin Grimes.
Irving‘s streak is admirable as he has scored 48, 38, 30, 40 and 32 points in the last five games.
That means he is the only player in the history of the Nets who has managed to string together six consecutive games of 30 points or more.
He’s a scorer, a leader and the lifeblood of a team that needs him at that level every game.
“I don’t think people understand the confidence he gives the other guys, we need to say it more,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn confessed after the game.
Irving’s numbers in the fourth quarter
Then there’s that finishing ability. He averages 9.6 points in the final 12 minutes of a game, beating LeBron James‘ 8.8 and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s 8.2. You don’t have to be an expert to know that’s impressive.
What’s the secret? Well, against the Knicks, it was personal.
“I grew up in New York, the Bronx and Harlem, the roots come from here,” he said.
“Then I went to New Jersey when I was seven or eight, and I was a ‘Jersey Kid’ going to Gauchos Gym.
“It was all very competitive, so that’s where I got my toughness and consistency from getting tough on those streets.”