No player in all of basketball is a better fourth-quarter performer than Nets star guard Kyrie Irving.
Irving scored 21 of his 32 points in the final period alone in Brooklyn’s 122-115 victory over the Knicks at Barclays Center on Saturday. The scoring barrage marked his fourth 20-point fourth quarter of the season, tying Trae Young, Kemba Walker and former Celtics star Isaiah Thomas for the most 20-point fourth quarters in a season since the league started tracking single quarter statistics in the 1996-97 season.
With 33 games left in the regular season, Irving may very well become the sole owner of the record — especially with Kevin Durant out about another week at minimum recovering from an MCL sprain in his right knee.
“This is what I love to do and preparing at a very high level and learning from game to game and watching film is just as important as working on your skill set on the court,” Irving said. “So the guys are really keeping up with the pace that JV is putting together both coming in watching film and just playing the game and a very high level.”
Irving leads the NBA with 356 points scored in fourth quarters this season. He is shooting 50% from the field, 35.5% from downtown and 91.5% from the foul line in those periods. The averages work out to 9.6 fourth-quarter points per game. LeBon James ranks second in the fourth quarter at 8.9 points per game. James has scored 354 total points in the fourth quarter.
Coincidentally, Irving and James — former teammates in Cleveland who won the 2016 NBA championship together — face off at Barclays Center when the Nets host the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
James is chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s long-standing record as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. Abdul-Jabbar tallied 38,387 regular-season points over the course of his Hall of Fame career. James is currently at 38,271 and has scored 40 or more points four times in the month of January.
Irving, on the other hand, is chasing his second NBA title, and with Durant’s midseason MCL sprain robbing the Nets of their best player, it’s been on the star guard to pick up the slack.
Nobody does it better than him in the fourth quarter.
“It’s always good when you have somebody that you know is just gonna show up every single time in the fourth quarter,” starting center Nic Claxton said after the win over the Knicks. “It’s big. He always steps up, he’s always even-keel, no matter the score of the game. We just rallied behind him and got the win.”
Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said it’s not just Irving’s ability to score in the fourth quarter that helps his team but his understanding of what’s needed in a given moment.
“I think being able to, as the game progresses, to understand what the team needs and what shot is needed: whether it’s a two, whether it’s a drive, whether it’s a drive and kick, whether it’s screening for Seth (Curry) so Seth can turn the corner, whether it’s pulling up early for the three ball to ignite your team,” Vaughn said on Saturday. “So I think he’s in a great position of what’s needed and he’s delivering the need so give him a lot of credit for that.”
Irving was recently named an Eastern Conference All-Star starter alongside Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell, Celtics star Jayson Tatum, Milwaukee’s All-Star captain Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Nets star Kevin Durant, whose status for the Feb. 19 NBA All-Star Game remains uncertain as he rehabs an MCL sprain.
Irving is averaging 27.3 points, 5.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Vaughn said reserve forward TJ Warren is day-to-day after sustaining a left shin contusion after 15 minutes of action in Thursday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons. His status for Monday against the Lakers is uncertain.
A SHARPE FALL
Second-year big man Day’Ron Sharpe missed two straight games with left back soreness and played against the Knicks despite being listed as questionable earlier in the day.
And then he took a hard fall while fighting for a rebound and writhed in pain on the court for a moment before getting back to his feet.
To Sharpe’s credit, he returned to the game and played 14 minutes, tallying six points and three rebounds while offering an additional big body to throw at Knicks star Julius Randle.
“Good response from him,” Vaughn said. “It’s amazing. Out of all the falls and injuries, he comes in with a little bit of a sore back and falls on his back. For him to pop up, be ready to continue to play, shows a lot.”
DON’T FORGET THE BEV
LeBron isn’t the only reason the Lakers are must-see TV.
There’s never a dull moment when point guard Patrick Beverley is on the court.
In Los Angeles’ last game — an overtime loss to the Boston Celtics — officials missed a foul call that would have sent James to the free throw line with almost no time left in regulation.
Beverley went to the sidelines and grabbed the camera to show the referee the foul call he missed. The moment went viral on social media. Beverley was assessed a technical foul for his actions, and the Lakers went on to lose in overtime.