I love watching Kyrie Irving play. But I hate watching him play against the Golden State Warriors because he loves to rip their heart out. Last night’s 110-106 victory over the Brooklyn Nets was fraught with Kyrie highlights, and it showed why the Nets would be a very dangerous opponent if they were at full strength.
Kyrie has historically been a problem for the Warriors; the dynamic Kobe Bryant disciple and dangerous rival of Golden State hero Stephen Curry.
Kyrie’s superpower is being comfortable in places that the Warriors defense is built to corral him into. He’s trained to convert on contested jumpshots and difficult finishes around the rim. He’s mastered getting buckets out of tiny windows for success.
With no Kevin Durant or James Harden in the lineup last night, the Dubs knew Kyrie would have the ultimate greenlight to go hunting.
Kyrie finished with 32 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. He shot 9-of-21 from the field and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc with 11-of-12 shooting from the free throw line. For Golden State fans, Kyrie is a terror in the best possible sense of the word. Basketball is entertainment and he plays spoiler to Warriors’ plans like few others ever have.
Here’s how he did against specific GSW defenders last night, per NBA matchup data tracking:
Andrew Wiggins: 3-of-7, 2 turnovers
Klay Thompson: 1-of-2
Jordan Poole: 2-of-3
Gary Payton II: 2-of-5
Kevon Looney: 2-of-4
Stephen Curry: 1-of-2, 2 turnovers
Overall I was impressed with Golden State (DA NUMBA ONE DEFENSE IN THE WORLD) making it tough on Kyrie. Here’s Curry blowing up a dribble hand off with Looney scooting in-tandem to wall off Kyrie like two park rangers protecting a wounded hiker from a salivating mountain lion. This leads to Kyrie firing a tough bounce pass that Wiggins snatches.
And here’s Wiggins again with the big-time block on Kyrie in transition.
Fantastic. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how former Spur Patty Mills lit GSW up as well. His 24 points with 6 treys made life difficult for the Dubs (he also had 2 steals and 2 blocks!).
Kyrie shared embraces with GSW players in the aftermath and it was touching to see.
Good seeing you back in the Bay Kyrie, thank you for demanding a trade out of Cleveland years ago and make it much easier to finish destroying them in future Finals.
Splash Bros needed help
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson aren’t in their twenties anymore. Their bodies bear the scars of years of wars waged in the name of the Golden Empire. And although they steel their eyes towards the future obstacles that lie in wait, rushing forward with a champion’s courage, there will be times when they need help.
That’s exacerbated when they don’t have their sagacious tactician Andre Iguodala on the floor. And it gets most concerning when they go without the injured Draymond Green, their enforcer and facilitator on the floor. Their presences last night would have probably made sure this game ended in the third quarter against a wounded Brooklyn squad.
But Curry and Thompson struggled for most of the game, combining to shoot 10-of-32 from the field and a ghastly 5-of-18 from beyond the arc. Curry coughed up 5 costly turnovers as well.
Thankfully the Warriors’ front office and head coach Steve Kerr have always planned for the moments when the Splash Bros need help. I now cede the floor to All-Star starter Andrew Wiggins (team high 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) and future 6th man of the year candidate Jordan Poole (17 points and 6 dimes off the bench).
Oh yeah and Otto Porter with 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 blocks filling in as a starter for 28 minutes in Green’s absence. B-GRADE OFFSEASON THEY TOLD ME.
And a big shout out to Kevon Looney for snaring 15 freakin’ rebounds. He’s a damn good option at center, even if the Warriors do potentially have a superweapon in cryostasis waiting to take over (praying for the health of Mr. James Wiseman).
Splash Bros closed the game
Didn’t I just say they needed help? Absolutely. But it was the Brooklyn Nets who ultimately needed help when Curry and Thompson struck peak synergy late in the fourth quarter with the game in the balance.
Oh how I missed Splash Bros magic.
Man , just heard Kyrie’s full quote on Steph. Mad respect.
“I love Steph, man. I mean, the guy has completely revolutionized the game. Coming into the league as a young man in 2011 — and only seeing glimpses of what he was capable of because he wasn’t as healthy in those early 2000s, so we only see glimpses. But when he caught fire, man, everybody was on notice. And me, as a point guard or just as a lead guard on my team growing up in Cleveland at the time, he was the guy that really set that standard.
“That catch-and-shooting off the dribble, being able to break down his defenders, being able to take three guys with him everywhere he goes. You wouldn’t be a true student of the game if you’re not watching somebody like that and trying to not only keep up but challenge his positions.
“I think that’s where our mutual respect has really grown, is going against each other has been great, but studying each other has been even more of a special bond. I see moves he does, and I know he sees moves that I do; we’re just leading this next generation that’s coming up behind us.
“You don’t have to be the athletic guy that’s finishing over the top of the rim — you have young guys doing that, they are the 2.0, they’re able to shoot deep 3s and sky over the rim. But when you look at me and Steph, I just feel like we’re able to do things out there that keeps the normal person walking down the street, gives them hope that basketball can be for them as well.
“He’s just able to do so many special things. I can go on and on about Steph, but I love that guy. Going against him and having our battles where he’s had 50 on me and I’ve had 30-something on him — win, loss, all the comparisons, all the Instagram pages, all the Twitter feeds, everything that goes on into the media of just comparing us, I’ve dealt with it. And it’s just like, put me in a position to look at him as more of a brother in arms, but when we’re out there on the floor, we compete at a high level.”
Had to skim the G-League game to get my mind off that NFC championship (didn't work, come on Tartt catch the ball). This was a really strong game from Moody. Live dribble dimes, off pindown threes, strong offensive rebounds, forced jump balls, multiple stutter rip moves (one for a dunk), off the dribble midrange pull up, and more. Had some trouble finishing in traffic inside as usual, shot and dribble moves still need to be sped up (think of how fast Klay would get some of these movement threes off).
Scoring highlights are here:
Here's a few of his assists (consecutive in the video):
https://youtu.be/R0AoIXaZw3M?t=176 (two plays in a row in this video)