The list of NBA players you'd want to take an important shot late in a game is small, but there's no question that Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving would be included.
Irving proved why on Christmas Day when he dropped 40 points in a 121-114 overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden. Irving forced overtime with a tough shot in the final 30 seconds, then took over in the extra period with two clutch 3-point shots that turned a Celtics deficit into a comfortable lead.
The Duke product's latest display of clutch basketball reinvigorated the debate of who is the most clutch player in the league.
Kyrie Irving is now averaging 41.5 points and 6.8 assists per 36 minutes in the clutch (69 minutes). His offensive rating during those minutes is 128.8 and his defensive rating is 100.0.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) December 26, 2018
Skip Bayless, during Wednesday's episode of "Undisputed" on FOX Sports 1, made a case that it's Irving.
Irving was ranked No. 4 in the "Which player would you want taking a shot with the game on the line?" category of the annual NBA general manager survey in October. He has earned a ton of respect for clutch play among his peers, too, and Philadelphia 76ers star Jimmy Butler proved as much in his postgame comments after Tuesday's matchup.
Jimmy Butler on Kyrie Irving: “He’s done that his entire career — take and make tough shots. That’s why he’s the type of player that he is in the league, man. That’s why I respect his game so much.” pic.twitter.com/wdam3kMv8X— Nicole Yang (@nicolecyang) December 26, 2018
Irving's clutch resumé started long before he arrived in Boston. His legend reached historic levels with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2016 NBA Finals, when he scored 41 points facing elimination in Game 5 and then hit the winning shot in Game 7 that sealed a championship over the Golden State Warriors.
Irving did it again to the Warriors later in 2016 when the two teams met in Cleveland on Christmas Day.
The Celtics nearly advanced to the NBA Finals last season, but they lacked someone who could carry the team offensively late in Game 7 against LeBron James and the Cavs. Irving's return from knee surgery gives the C's that closer that was absent in 2017-18, and it makes them a far more dangerous team when the stakes are as high as they get.
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