NBA: Irving scores 50 as Nets sting Hornets

Kyrie Irving shoots the ball over Jalen McDaniels in the second quarter on March 8, 2022, in Charlotte, North Carolina. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Kyrie Irving erupted for 50 points as the Brooklyn Nets snapped a four-game losing streak with a 132-121 National Basketball Association (NBA) road victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday (March 8).

The fifth 50-point game of Irving's career came courtesy of a superb shooting performance, with the seven-time All-Star shooting 15 of 19 attempts from the field including nine from outside the arc.

The Nets improved to 33-33 with the victory, which keeps them firmly on track for a place in the postseason play-in tournament.

Brooklyn are in eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, just ahead of the Hornets (32-34) who are in ninth place.

Irving was backed by Andre Drummond, who scored 20 points and hauled in 14 rebounds, while Kevin Durant and Bruce Brown both had 14 points apiece.

"It was special all the way around," Irving said.

"We started off the game with a great resolve, a great game plan and we just played aggressive the whole game. That's what feels good - you really want to put your stamp on the game early and that's what we did tonight.

"We needed it. We need everybody. It's a total team effort. It's not about one individual. Great performance but it's about the team and us getting collectively better."

Nets coach Steve Nash took encouragement from the performance.

"We showed the level we can play at when we play extremely hard and play connected," said Nash, who reserved praise for Irving's 50-point masterclass.

"He's incredible. It's a career highlight reel every night. We obviously have a special player on our hands and tonight he was unbelievably efficient and difficult to defend," Nash said.

The Nets now face a showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, marking a reunion with James Harden - traded away from the Nets in January.

"It will be a different feeling to play against him this soon after the trade, but it will be an exciting night for everyone to be part of," Nash said.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 39 points as the Milwaukee Bucks thumped the hapless Oklahoma City Thunder 142-115 to notch a fifth straight win.

Khris Middleton added 25 points while Bobby Portis finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds in a romp for the Bucks, who remain third in the Eastern Conference with a 41-25 record.

In Indianapolis, the Cleveland Cavaliers maintained their play-off drive with a 127-124 win over the Indiana Pacers courtesy of a career-high 41-point display from Darius Garland.

Garland also contributed 13 assists and five rebounds as all five members of the Cavs starting line-up cracked double figures.

The Cavaliers are sixth in the Eastern Conference table on 38-27, with a comfortable four-win advantage over the Toronto Raptors, who are just outside the play-offs spots in seventh place.

Tyrese Haliburton led the Pacers scoring with 25 points.

In Orlando, meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns bounced back from Sunday's loss to the Bucks with a 102-99 defeat of the Magic.

With the Suns still without the injured Chris Paul and Devin Booker (health protocols), it was left to Deandre Ayton to step up for Phoenix.

Ayton finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds, while Landry Shamet also posted 21 points.

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