Kyrie Irving proves he thrives under pressure without Kevin Durant

The Brooklyn Nets squeaked past Washington on Wednesday for their first win without Kevin Durant, who sprained his MCL on Jan. 15 against New Orleans. For the second-straight game, Kyrie Irving scored a season-high in KD’s absence.

Irving’s only played in five games for the Nets since making his season debut against the Pacers on Jan. 5. His part-time role prohibits him from playing in games at Barclays Center and after losing to the Cavaliers on Monday, the point guard emphasized that Durant’s injury hasn’t persuaded him to get vaccinated.

For the first half of the season, it was KD that led the way for Brooklyn. His 29.3 points per game is a league-high, and his average of 36.5 minutes per game is the most for him since 2013-14 (38.5).

It’s no easy task to be without Durant, as it wasn’t easy for the Nets to start the year without Irving.

However, Irving “loves” the pressure that has come along with KD being out for at least 4-6 weeks.

Kyrie Irving embraces the pressure from the Brooklyn Nets being without KD.

If there’s one thing that Durant excels at, it’s acting under pressure, so it’s beneficial that Irving can do the same.

After all, remember his clutch 3-pointer in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals?

And if it weren’t for Irving, Brooklyn wouldn’t have been able to rally back to beat Indiana in his first game of the year. He played in 32 minutes and scored 22 points to help prevent the Nets from losing four-straight games.

Irving’s that type of player, and for at least the next month, it’ll be up to him and Harden to place Durant in road games.

Brooklyn lost its first game without KD against Cleveland and in that game, Irving scored a game-high 27 points (12-of-23) and added nine rebounds and seven assists.

He carried that same energy over to Washington, D.C. two nights later as he dropped 30 points (13-of-23) and seven assists.

His skill set is what sets him apart. Irving thrives under pressure, and as he said, he wants to give that same zest to his teammates.

That’s exactly what he’s done with Harden, who has greatly benefitted from Irving’s return. His presence on the court helps with spacing, which resulted in Harden exploding for 25 points, 16 assists, and seven rebounds in the Nets’ romp over the Bulls.

Harden’s a playmaker and with Irving back, he’s able to hone in on that strength.

Although Brooklyn will have to continue to navigate murky water without Durant, it’s in the team’s best interest to have Irving on the floor, even if it is for away games only. These are the situations that Irving’s built for and he’s going to continue to prove it over the next month-and-a-half.