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KYRIE IRVING DROPS 54 IN WIN OVER BULLS, 133-118

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Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — “That Kobe mentality, Mamba mentality. I had to keep going.”

Kyrie Irving played his second game since his friend, his mentor, Kobe Bryant passed away last Sunday. In his honor, Irving dropped 54 points on 19-of-23 shooting in 32 minutes — the second most in Nets history behind Deron Williams and the third most in his career.

“It’s still hard, everyone’s still grieving, it’s still an open wound, but I think just coming out here knowing that this is a place where we connected on a deeper scale, it makes a lot of sense what’s happening,” said Irving afterwards. “[I’m] just trying to put days together, do as best as you can, but really it’s the collective environment I’m in. Energy feeding energy, I’m able to come in three, four hours before and I’m following someone’s footsteps.”

Irving led the Nets to a huge 133-118 win over the Chicago Bulls, their second straight win and their third in the last four games. Chicago is now four and a half games behind the Nets for the eighth seed.

“We need every game we can get right now,” said Irving. “We have goals we set for ourselves as a team and we just want to accomplish them, whatever it takes, just glad we came away with the win. My teammates were in the right spots, they were being aggressive, and when they’re aggressive like that it makes my job a lot easier.”

Irving made history.

—He became one of only other players in NBA history to drop 50+ points while shooting as well as he did. Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan were the others.

—He also became the first Net to have two 50+ point games and three 45+ point games in a single season. He’ll play his 20th game tomorrow.

—He scored the most points in a half without a missed field goal in the last 20 seasons, joining Yao Ming (6-of-6) in 2008 and Penny Hardaway (10-of-10) in 2000. He was also the first player over the last 20 seasons to go 10-10 from the field while making 4 3-pointers in a single half.

—His 54 points were also the most a Nets player has scored at Barclays Center.

—Finally, Irving also recorded the highest true shooting percentage in a 50-point game in NBA history, 98.5 percent, far ahead of the previous record, 93 percent by Dana Barros.

And as a team, the Nets 62.5 shooting percentage Friday was the fifth time in team history the Nets shot that well.

“Well, when you’re that hot, you expect a guy to come down like it always usually happens,” said Kenny Atkinson. “You’re so hot, you have to – he never came down. Even that fastbreak one at the end there, where he circled around and he hit a tough shot, pull up in the lane. He’s just got a knack.”

The moment that many fans knew the night would be special occurred just before halftime.

Irving had the Brooklyn crowd on its feet as he ran down the floor tugging at his jersey and yelling in triumph. He had just stolen the ball from Tomas Satoransky and nailed a 33-foot 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

Irving had scored five points in the final five seconds of the quarter, giving the Nets a 16-point lead. Irving at that point had 27 points on a perfect 10-of-10 at that point. But he wanted more.

It meant something more to him.

By the time Irving checked out of the game with the Nets up 99-86 in the third quarter, he had 37 points to his name on 13-of-14 shooting. After that, Chicago got close on a 12-4 run and cut a once 21-point deficit to seven entering the fourth.

They scrapped and battled, bringing it with seven when Kyrie returned. The rest was history.

Literally.

Once he returned, he scored 10 straight points in an absolutely spectacular showing. It started with a mid-range pull-up then a fast break and-one. Then, a 3-pointer and a tough and-one to put the Nets up 14.

The crowd erupted with “KYRIE!” chants. Brooklyn was ALIVE.

Finally, when he pulled up from 15-feet away and scored his 54th point. “KYRIE” chants turned into “MVP” chants, and “MVP” chants turned into “Brooooklynnn” chants.

The monster awoke, and Brooklyn was alive. It felt like the moment Nets fans have been waiting for. And the moment Kyrie Irving has been ready for.

It was Irving who put the Nets up 21 in the first half after Irving hit his eighth consecutive shot — a four-point play and a 9-0 Nets run. Then when Chicago challenged, he stepped up.

In the end, it was a wire-to-wire victory. And an absolutely poetic and historical night for Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.

“Hometown kids coming for the records,” said Irving. “I’m just grateful for all the Nets greats that came before me and cemented what this Nets organization meant for me as a child, a kid that had a dream. Coming back home and doing what I’m doing now, I’m nothing short of grateful. It’s just a great feeling.”

“I’m cemented, I’m here, I’m grounded, I’m rooted and I’m just happy here.”

DID SOMEONE SAY ‘SNUB?’

Spencer Dinwiddie who carried the Nets during Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert’s injuries has said he didn’t feel snubbed in the All-Star voting by fans and coaches. He also said that when Kobe Bryant was in Brooklyn with his daughter on December 21, the late superstar said the Nets guard was an All-Star in his mind. That was good enough for him.

But post-game Friday, Dinwiddie had something to say about the whole All-Star process. He is not a fan.

“Look at it like this: I won the Skills Challenge and didn’t get invited back,” Dinwiddie said. “What does that f—in’ say? Have you ever met a winner of an award not get invited back? Now that s–t is pretty crazy. Folks don’t care about me. I’m Spencer. Quit playin.’

“I told you guys, it’s a popularity contest,” he added.

“The All-Star voting stuff, I wanted Spencer bad. I wanted Kyrie even thought he was out [28] games,” Atkinson said. “We could see when Kyrie was out what a difference he makes, and he’s a darn exciting player, he and Spencer. Quite honestly I’m a little disappointed they didn’t make it.”

LAMELO IN THE HOUSE

LaMelo Ball sat next to the basket Friday night, The 6’7” point guard recently left his team in the Australian league to get ready for the Draft in June. He’s projected as a top three pick, a potential Knick. He was on hand to watch Kyrie. Like the rest of us, he got a show. Gotta think he knows which New York team he wants to play with.

HARRIS AND LEVERT NEED TO STEP UP

Despite all the good feelings regarding Kyrie Irving —and Spencer Dinwiddie, there has to be some anxiety about the performances of Caris LeVert and Joe Harris. LeVert finished the game 1-of-5 overall and 0-of-1 from three. He scored three points and didn’t grab a board in 21 minutes. In the last four games, he’s scored 32 points and shot 10-of-34.

The Nets don’t seem that concerned.

“Still finding his rhythm. He’s a rhythm player, still finding it, still searching,” coach Kenny Atkinson said two days ago. “He’ll get there. It’s just a matter of time. I know he doesn’t want me to use injury as an excuse.” Spencer [Dinwiddie] took some time after he hurt his thumb to get back to the swing of things.

Meanwhile, Joe Harris finished with five points, taking only three shots, making two. January hasn’t been kind to the reigning 3-point champion. He finished the month shooting a subpar 31.2 percent from deep, 3-of-13 over the last three games. He made at least one three in every game this month, but seven times, he shot less than 33.3 percent.

“BIGGIE SMALLS IS THE ILLEST”

... And so is this bobble head.

... And so is Sean Marks! Once again, he there to personally quench the thirst of the Brigade with cases of Modelo!

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For a different perspective, head on over to Blog-a-Bull, our Bulls sister site on SB Nation.

Next up: Nets at Wizards, 8 p.m. Saturday.