NBA

Irving thriving under pressure in Durant's absence

By Sports Desk January 20, 2022

Kyrie Irving says he is enjoying the pressure placed on him due to the absence of Kevin Durant after delivering a match-winning display for the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving had 30 points, three rebounds and seven assists in a 119-118 win over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

The All-Star guard is only able to play road games, due to a vaccination mandate in place in New York City. Irving is unvaccinated against COVID-19.

He made his return two weeks ago and is averaging 20.0 points per game.

The onus was very much on Irving in Washington, with Durant missing the game due to a knee injury sustained against the Oklahoma City Thunder last week.

It has been reported that Durant will be out for between four and six weeks and Irving knows he has to step up in his absence.

"I like the pressure," he told reporters. "I love pressure. It brings out the best in me personally.

"Then also I'm able to carry that energy with the team whether it be communicating with guys in short conversations on the floor or off the floor.

"Just trying to demand responsibility from all of us, from myself first, but from all of us, that this isn't going to be perfect. It's not going to ever look perfect.

"This is just what we have, and we can't replace anybody that's out, but what we can do is fill up the stat sheet with the little things that may show up and things that may not show up.

"We'll see where we are at the end of the game when we leave it all out there playing hard."

Irving had initially been left out of the Nets' roster for the season due to his decision not to get vaccinated, though he was recalled when injuries and COVID-19 cases took their toll.

"It feels incredible [to be back]," Irving said. "I don't take one day for granted.

"I know it's difficult at times, not only for just me, but for everyone else, just the monotony coming in every single day working on [our games], but this is what we signed up for when we were playing in fifth grade, fourth grade, this was the dream right here. Just getting on the road and trying to win some ballgames and play at a high level."

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