kyrie irving
Sam Sharpe | USA TODAY Sports

Love him or hate him, Kyrie Irving is one of the best scorers on the planet.

The Charlotte Hornets are going to have nightmares of Kyrie Irving for the next few weeks. The Brooklyn Nets and Hornets entered the game with the exact same record and a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Irving dropped a casual 50-piece in Charlotte. Normally, a 50-point performance is impressive in its own right. This particular performance was special due to the efficiency of Irving as much as the total sum of points.

His official stat line: 50 points on 15-for-19 from the field, 9-for-12 from three, and 11-for-13 from the charity stripe. Oh, and Irving added six assists for good measure.

This was Irving’s fifth 50-point game of his career and his third as a Net. That makes him the all-time Nets leader in 50-point games. Keep in mind, Irving has only played 91 career games with Brooklyn. Absurd.

In those 91 games, Irving is averaging 26.9 points on 49/40/92 shooting splits. Of course, getting on the court is half the battle with the enigmatic point guard, but when he does play, he is the best version of himself.

This is why the Nets are still the favorite to win the Eastern Conference despite the fact that they are probably going to need to win a play-in game to make it into the playoffs.

Irving and Kevin Durant at full-strength make the Nets a bonafide title contender. If Ben Simmons can lift the defense and role players like Patty Mills, Andre Drummond, and Seth Curry show up, the Nets are going to be tough to beat in a seven-game series.

Where do the Nets stand in the standings?

The Nets needed this game in a big way. Here is how the standings for the play-in tournament look like after Brooklyn’s win

  • 6 — Cleveland Cavaliers — 38-27*
  • 7 — Toronto Raptors — 34-30
  • 8 — Brooklyn Nets — 33-33
  • 9 — Charlotte Hornets — 32-34
  • 10 — Atlanta Hawks — 31-33
  • 11 — Washington Wizards — 29-34

Obviously, the Nets would like to stay out of the 9-10 range. Teams that fall to that spot would need to win two play-in games to secure the eighth seed. The teams in that 7-8 range would only need to win once in two games to lock up a playoff spot.

This isn’t an ideal situation for the Nets, but they are still in a position to make a run in the playoffs. They will face the Hornets in a regular-season rubber match at Barclays Center on March 27. The winner will own the all-important playoff tiebreaker.

As for the present, the Nets are heading north to Philadelphia for their first meeting against James Harden and the new-look Sixers. Simmons won’t be making his Nets debut in the game, but he will be in Wells Fargo Center on the bench. This seems like a significant step that signals Simmons is almost ready to return to the court.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.