Kyrie Irving Single-Handedly Carried the Nets and Broke Analytics in the Process

The 2021-22 season hasn’t been easy for Kyrie Irving. Granted, it’s mostly due to his own choices regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. But the star guard is tasked with fixing the broken Brooklyn Nets in only half of their games.

Tuesday, Irving reminded the Nets and the rest of the NBA why he’s still a star. Not only did he put up his best performance of a controversial season, but he also made history in both the record books and the advanced stats column.

Kyrie Irving dropped 50 points in a win over the Charlotte Hornets

Due to New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving is still unable to suit up for Brooklyn’s home games. That means, for the time being, the 29-year-old will have to showcase his stuff exclusively on the road.

Tuesday against the Charlotte Hornets, Irving had a game for the ages. The 6-foot-2 guard scored 50 points in Brooklyn’s 132-121 victory. He is now one of 22 players in NBA history with five or more 50-point games.

The beauty of Irving’s performance was in his efficiency. Kyrie went 15-of-19 from the field, good for 78.9%. He also hit 9 out of 12 attempts from beyond the arc and 11-of-13 attempts from the charity stripe.

“That was master class,” teammate Kevin Durant, who scored 14 points, told ESPN after the game. “Younger players should watch this game and learn what it takes to score at that level.”

“It was special,” Seth Curry added. “He made great plays all over the floor. He didn’t force it. Catch and shoot, off the dribble, and got to the rim, too. We needed that Kyrie.”

Since making his debut on Jan. 5, Irving has only played in 17 games. But he’s been a star when he’s active, averaging 26.2 points on 47.7% shooting from the field and 40.3% from three. He’s also hitting 90.8% of his free-throw attempts, second to Stephen Curry among all players with four or more average attempts.

Irving’s historic night set a record for efficiency

As mentioned above, Irving hit 78.9% of his shots from the field. He also drilled 75.0% of his threes and 84.6% of his free throws.

Not only was Kyrie efficient … he may have broken one of the league’s commonly-used statistics with his brilliance alone.

True shooting percentage is a statistic used in basketball to measure efficiency. Rather than regular field-goal percentage, true shooting looks at the number of points scored over the number of possessions in which they attempted to score.

In short, it’s calculated using the following formula:

TS% = PTS / 2(FGA + (0.44 x FTA))

Irving scored 50 points on Tuesday. That number would then be divided by the sum of his 19 attempts and the multiplied result of his 13 free-throw attempts and 0.44. Additionally, the entire denominator would be multiplied by two in order to put the number into a percentage scale.

Irving’s true shooting percentage would be calculated as follows:

50 / 2(19 + (0.44 x 13)) = 1.011 (aka 101.1%)

That means Irving’s true shooting percentage was 101.1%. Not only is he one of the few players to actually finish above 100.0% in general, but he now holds the NBA record for the highest true shooting percentage in a 50-point game. Both Fred Van Vleet and Jamal Murray had 50-point games in 2020-21 with a true shooting percentage of 100% or better, but both finished below Kyrie.

If that wasn’t interesting enough, Irving actually knocked himself out of the top three. The star guard dropped 54 points with a TS% of 98.5% against the Chicago Bulls in 2019-20.

Kyrie is now in the same company as Michael Jordan

Irving’s 50-point clinic was a master class, as Durant described. And if the true shooting discussion wasn’t enough to put his performance into perspective, perhaps this will:

Kyrie is now the second guard in NBA history to have multiple 50-point games while shooting 75.0% from the field. The other is Michael Jordan.

His Airness has 31 games with 50 or more points, though only three had a 75.0% field-goal percentage or better. His first came on April 3, 1988, against the Detroit Pistons, as he dropped 59 points on 77.8% shooting. A few months later on Nov. 16, Jordan scored 52 on a whopping 82.8% from the floor against the Philadelphia 76ers. Then on March 7, 1996, MJ grabbed 53 points on 75.0% shooting against Detroit.

While he’s got a long way to go to catch Jordan’s 31 games with 50 or more, the fact Irving can say he’s the only other guard with multiple 75.0% or better shooting displays is enough. And it’s a sign that despite the off-court headaches that follow him, Kyrie is still one of the league’s most dominant forces.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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