Paolo Banchero feels he is more than ready to meet the challenge of the NBA and the expectations that come with being the number one overall pick.  

In his only season at Duke, the 6-foot-10 Banchero averaged a team-best 17.2 points per game and grabbed 7.8 rebounds, while handing out 3.2 assists. He also didn’t shrink in big moments, scoring at least 16 points in all five of the Blue Devils’ NCAA Tournament games this year. 

Banchero was something of a surprise as the top selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft, with many having Auburn’s Jabari Smith pegged as the Orlando Magic’s top choice. He said he didn’t even know he would go first overall until about 30 seconds before NBA commissioner Adam Silver took the stage to announce his name.  

"It all happened pretty fast," he said. "I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just kind of happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready."

Banchero arrived in Orlando on Friday and will next begin a whirlwind of activity before starting workouts next week for the Magic’s July 7 opener at NBA Summer League.  

"There's going to be high expectations for myself that I'm going to hold myself to and that everyone is going to hold myself to," Banchero said. "But I feel like it's nothing I'm not used to.

"It was the same thing for me heading into college, throughout high school, a lot of expectations. It's been like that my whole life." 

The Magic did work out Smith, and listened to teams that called about obtaining the first pick in a trade, but Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said in the end, the team felt that Banchero was the best player at the college level this past season and would be the best fit. 

"There's things that you're grabbing from each [top player in the draft] that you're like, 'Oh, man, wow, that can be great for us','' he said.

"But then it ultimately comes down to, 'How does that fit for us? How do we jell with them in the locker room? How are they treating people when they're walking in?' – because all those pieces play a factor, and I think we've done an incredible job with those details." 

The Magic are a combined 43-111 in the past two seasons, have made the playoffs just twice in the last 10 years and haven’t won a round in the postseason since 2009-10.  

Jabari Smith admitted there is a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked by the Orlando Magic for the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, but vowed to show the Houston Rockets that the Magic's loss is their gain.

Orlando instead picked Paolo Banchero, despite Smith being heavily tipped to have his name called.

Chet Holmgren was chosen second as expected by Oklahoma City Thunder, allowing the Rockets the chance to pick up Smith at three.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday's draft, the 19-year-old said: "[It] Definitely added a chip, but God makes no mistakes, so I'm happy to be here. 

"I'm happy to be where I'm wanted. I'm happy to get to Houston and just show them. Give them what they picked. Just happy to be here."

Smith was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22.

The forward was named National Freshman of the Year by both the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

He will link up with other promising youngsters at Toyota Center, including Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, both claimed in last year's draft.

"Most thing I'm looking forward to is just growing with them over these next few years," Smith added.

"We're all young, all new to the NBA lifestyle, so just learning from them. They're older than me, so just getting in there and ultimately building that relationship with them, so it can transfer to the court."

The Rockets had a league-worst record of 20-62 in the 2021-22 season, but Smith is aiming high, believing already that his new team can reach the postseason.

"I want to make the playoffs," Smith told ESPN. "I want to win games. That is how I was raised. That is just who I am. I want to come in and win games.

"I know if I come in every day trying to win, everything else will take care of itself. I am looking forward to a big year."

To echo Kevin Durant's thoughts during Thursday's 2022 NBA Draft, it is a wing's league as size, length and shooting proved desirable for front offices, with the Orlando Magic taking Paolo Banchero first. 

The NBA's stylistic pivot towards skill and versatility since the introduction of the defensive three-second rule has necessitated the recruitment of more skilled and flexible players on both ends.

Banchero serves as an apt first selection in this respect - a 6-foot-9 forward with the ability to create his own shot and make decisions with the ball in his hands, as well the versatility to switch on the defensive end.

From the likes of Mario Hezonja to Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic have had a predisposition towards rangy forwards who struggle to stretch the floor in recent years, though. Whether Banchero can improve on his outside shooting could again prove definitive in their rebuild.

The Duke freshman averaged 17.2 points per game but connected on 33.8 per cent of shots from three-point range, with their elimination in the Final Four characterised by defenders sagging off him.

A slight improvement at NBA level would be needed in this respect, to force close-outs and help maximise his ability to get to the basket.

Size and shooting are the primary characteristics for others in the lottery however, with Chet Holmgren and Jabari Smith Jr. the other standouts in this year's draft class.

The 7-foot-1 Holmgren has reportedly set a goal of achieving 50/40/90 shooting splits in the NBA, which previously would have been unheard for someone his size.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot-10 Smith presents a similar spacing threat for his size, with ability to quickly get shots up off the catch or when putting the ball on the floor.

Eight of the top ten picks were within the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-10 range, before even considering the added dynamics of wingspan on the defensive end.

Shooting took over as the most sought-after skill in the late stages of the first round and early parts of the second, with the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat respectively going for Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Nikola Jovic.

TyTy Washington is yet another example of the value placed in shooting and skill for the Houston Rockets, seemingly seeking their own answer to the Philadelphia 76ers' Tyrese Maxey.

 

2022 NBA Draft first-round picks

1. Orlando Magic - Paolo Banchero (Duke)
2. Oklahoma City Thunder - Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga)
3. Houston Rockets - Jabari Smith (Auburn)
4. Sacramento Kings - Keegan Murray (Iowa)
5. Detroit Pistons - Jaden Ivey (Purdue)
6. Indiana Pacers - Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona)
7. Portland Trail Blazers - Shaedon Sharpe (Kentucky)
8. New Orleans Pelicans - Dyson Daniels (G League Ignite)
9. San Antonio Spurs - Jeremy Sochan (Baylor)
10. Washington Wizards - Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
11. Oklahoma City Thunder - Ousmane Dieng (New Zealand)
12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jalen Williams (Santa Clara)
13. Detroit Pistons - Jalen Duren (Memphis)
14. Cleveland Cavaliers - Ochai Agbaji (Kansas)
15. Charlotte Hornets - Mark Williams (Duke)
16. Atlanta Hawks - AJ Griffin (Duke)
17. Houston Rockets - Tari Eason (LSU)
18. Chicago Bulls - Dalen Terry (Arizona)
19. Memphis Grizzlies - Jake LaRavia (Wake Forest)
20. San Antonio Spurs - Malaki Branham (Ohio State)
21. Denver Nuggets - Christian Braun (Kansas)
22. Minnesota Timberwolves - Walker Kessler (Auburn)
23. Memphis Grizzlies - David Roddy (Colorado State)
24. Milwaukee Bucks - MarJon Beauchamp (G League Ignite)
25. San Antonio Spurs - Blake Wesley (Notre Dame)
26. Dallas Mavericks - Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke)
27. Miami Heat - Nikola Jovic (Serbia)
28. Golden State Warriors - Patrick Baldwin Jr. (Milwaukee)
29. Houston Rockets - TyTy Washington Jr. (Kentucky)
30. Denver Nuggets - Peyton Watson (UCLA)

After the Orlando Magic won the NBA draft lottery, the franchise’s front office insisted they would keep their options open and hold their cards close to the chest.

The Magic succeeded, even surprising the player they picked first overall in Thursday’s draft.

Duke forward Paolo Banchero said he found out he would be the top selection just seconds before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the stage to announce the pick.

“The information that I was being told was just that it was up in the air, Orlando wasn’t really sure yet and to just be ready for whatever,” Banchero said.

“I didn’t find out I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t really even have time to think about it or anything. It just kind of happened.”

While Banchero was part of a consensus top tier with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Smith was considered the favourite to go first.

Magic president Jeff Weltman had hinted to the media that the team’s moves could be a surprise, but many dismissed those comments as gamesmanship.

“I think that it's important that people know that information is managed discreetly with us from every corner of this business, from agents to other teams to the media,” Weltman said. “And obviously, when you're playing poker, you don't put your cards on the table, right?”

Now that the pick has been made, however, all that matters is that Banchero produces on the court.

“We feel he was the best player in college basketball, and we feel that he will continue to grow every year for many years to come,” Weltman said.

Widely considered the most polished offensive player in the draft, Banchero showed the ability to create his own shot and to make plays for others during his freshman season at Duke, which ended in the Final Four.

The versatile 6-foot-10 forward believes he fits perfectly in Orlando.

“I feel like I will fit in great. The Magic have a lot of talent. They’re very deep,” Banchero said. “They also have a lot of dynamic forwards like myself, like Wendell [Carter], Franz Wagner.

“Adding myself, I feel like that’s going to give teams a lot of problems. That’s three 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 guys that can all dribble, pass and shoot, and have a high IQ.”

Banchero holds an Italian passport and said earlier this week that he plans on playing internationally for the Italy over the United States. However, he downplayed the significance of being the first player linked to Italy to be taken first overall since Andrea Bargnani in 2006.

“I don’t know if that’d be fair to Bargnani,” Banchero said. “Bargnani’s born and raised in Italy; I’m born and raised in Seattle, Washington, so I don’t want to take anything away from him.

After the Orlando Magic won the NBA draft lottery, the franchise’s front office insisted they would keep their options open and hold their cards close to the chest.

The Magic succeeded, even surprising the player they picked first overall in Thursday’s draft.

Duke forward Paolo Banchero said he found out he would be the top selection just seconds before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the stage to announce the pick.

“The information that I was being told was just that it was up in the air, Orlando wasn’t really sure yet and to just be ready for whatever,” Banchero said.

“I didn’t find out I was actually getting picked until about 20 seconds before the commissioner got on the stage. I didn’t really even have time to think about it or anything. It just kind of happened.”

While Banchero was part of a consensus top tier with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Smith was considered the favourite to go first.

Magic president Jeff Weltman had hinted to the media that the team’s moves could be a surprise, but many dismissed those comments as gamesmanship.

“I think that it's important that people know that information is managed discreetly with us from every corner of this business, from agents to other teams to the media,” Weltman said. “And obviously, when you're playing poker, you don't put your cards on the table, right?”

Now that the pick has been made, however, all that matters is that Banchero produces on the court.

“We feel he was the best player in college basketball, and we feel that he will continue to grow every year for many years to come,” Weltman said.

Widely considered the most polished offensive player in the draft, Banchero showed the ability to create his own shot and to make plays for others during his freshman season at Duke, which ended in the Final Four.

The versatile 6-foot-10 forward believes he fits perfectly in Orlando.

“I feel like I will fit in great. The Magic have a lot of talent. They’re very deep,” Banchero said. “They also have a lot of dynamic forwards like myself, like Wendell [Carter], Franz Wagner.

“Adding myself, I feel like that’s going to give teams a lot of problems. That’s three 6-9, 6-10, 6-11 guys that can all dribble, pass and shoot, and have a high IQ.”

Banchero holds an Italian passport and said earlier this week that he plans on playing internationally for the Italy over the United States. However, he downplayed the significance of being the first player linked to Italy to be taken first overall since Andrea Bargnani in 2006.

“I don’t know if that’d be fair to Bargnani,” Banchero said. “Bargnani’s born and raised in Italy; I’m born and raised in Seattle, Washington, so I don’t want to take anything away from him.

The Orlando Magic sprung a surprise on Thursday, taking Paolo Banchero with the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. 

The Oklahoma City Thunder followed up by selecting Chet Holmgren second overall and although many projected him to be the top pick coming into Thursday, the Houston Rockets took Jabari Smith third. 

Reflecting the evolving nature of the NBA, the Magic looked to the wing this time in Banchero, selecting front-court prospects with their previous three top selections in franchise history, in the form of Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber and Dwight Howard. 

"I don't even know what to say. I really can't believe what just happened," Banchero said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "I never would have thought that this would happen. I wanted to be in the NBA, but I didn't know I would be here. This is unbelievable.

Banchero is the fifth top selection to come from Duke University, following Art Heyman, Elton Brand, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson, also making for the 13th consecutive freshman to be taken at first.

The 19-year-old averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists as he led the Blue Devils to the Final Four, earning first-team All-ACC selection and the ACC Rookie of the Year. 

As a big who can stretch the floor, the 7-foot-1 Holmgren exhibited unique shooting ability for his size in his freshman year at Gonzaga University, potentially creating more space for the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey to make plays. 

Simiarly gifted for his size, the 6-foot-10 Smith is arguably the most NBA-ready of the three coming out of Auburn University, with his ability to score off the catch and off the dribble, along with a versatile defensive skill-set. 

The NBA All-Rookie teams were unveiled on Wednesday, headlined by Rookie of the Year finalists Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley and winner Scottie Barnes in the All-Rookie First Team.

Joining the trio – who were all unanimous selections – on the First Team were Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Barnes were the first four picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, while Wagner was the eighth selection.

They were also the only five rookies to average at least 15 points per game this season, putting a gap between themselves and sixth-highest scorer Chris Duarte at 13.1 points per game. It is the first time since at least 1985 that all five members of the All-Rookie First Team have each averaged at least 15 points per game.

The All-Rookie Second Team was made up of first-rounders Josh Giddey (sixth selection), Duarte (13th selection) and Bones Hyland (26th), as well as a pair of second-round picks in Herb Jones (35th) and Ayo Dosunmu (38th).

Orlando will have the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Rockets.

The Orlando Magic's late switch to see Jamahl Mosley represent the team at the NBA draft lottery paid off with the number one overall pick.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman joked Mosley was "the coach of the year" on Tuesday after he appeared on stage for the annual event and brought back the top prize.

"I haven't been very good at this," explained Weltman, who had been in line to take part.

"It's funny. Coach was feeling lucky and we let him roll the dice, and tonight, he's the coach of the year."

This is the third time the Magic have had the first selection in the NBA Draft and the first since Dwight Howard was taken in 2004.

Tuesday marked 30 years to the day since Orlando won the 1992 lottery that allowed them to select Shaquille O'Neal.

The Magic had two of the first eight picks last year, recruiting Jalen Suggs at five and Franz Wagner at eight, meaning they have an opportunity to build now with a young core.

"[For] the fans, the organisation, it's so exciting," Mosley told ESPN. "It's so much to look forward to with this organisation and this group and this fan base. It's going to be special."

Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero are considered among the leading prospects, although the Magic have also not ruled out trading their pick – in 1992, they took Chris Webber and then immediately traded him – even if that is not Weltman's focus at this stage.

"Obviously with that will come a lot of conversations, and it'll be interesting to see some of the calls that come up," Weltman said. "But mostly it means that we get to familiarise ourselves now with elite prospects, and we get to add one to our team.

"I do feel that as they start to make the rounds, teams will start to fall in love with guys, which is what generally happens.

"And generally, leverage will kind of unfold from there, but I know we'll have a lot of interesting discussions with teams. Obviously we don't go into this thing looking to trade our pick.

"We look to add a really talented, young, high-character guy to our talent base and our roster. I have no expectations on it. Obviously, we'll continue to do our work.

"This really doesn't change much of the way that we'll approach the draft. We're just really excited to be able to fall in love with somebody and pick that player."

The Orlando Magic have secured the number one pick in this year's NBA Draft following the lottery on Tuesday.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings will pick second, third and fourth respectively, with the Detroit Pistons rounding out the top five.

The Pistons dropped below the top four despite 52.1 per cent odds of landing in one of the top four spots and having a 14 per cent chance at the top pick, with the Kings moving up into fourth.

The Magic, who also had a 14 per cent chance at the top pick, have not had the first selection since the 2004 draft, where they selected Dwight Howard.

The other two times were in 1992, selecting Shaquille O'Neal, and 1993, where the Magic traded Chris Webber for Anfernee Hardaway. O'Neal and Howard both made NBA Finals appearances with the Magic before leaving for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Thunder's last selection at number two, meanwhile, was Kevin Durant in 2007.

The biggest losers from the lottery were the Portland Trail Blazers, who claimed the seventh pick despite a 2-21 finish to end the season after trading away CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr.

Former NBA player and Michigan State star Adreian Payne has died at the age of 31 after being shot in Orlando. 

The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Monday that Payne was transported to hospital following reports of a shooting at 01:34 local time and was later pronounced dead. 

Payne was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft and played 107 NBA games, averaging 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds across spells with the Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic. 

He played professionally with Lithuanian side Juventus Utena earlier this year and has also previously represented sides in Turkey, France, Greece and China. 

A male has been arrested for the shooting on a first-degree murder warrant. 

Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers are keen to have Rookie of the Year contender Evan Mobley fit again as soon as possible following an ankle injury.

Mobley went down in Monday's 107-101 win over the Orlando Magic, having played just 13 minutes.

There was no official word from the Cavs on his status, but ESPN reported it was a left ankle sprain, with X-rays coming back negative.

Mobley has averaged 14.9 points per game this year, while his 8.3 rebounds, 2.1 dunks and 1.6 blocks lead all rookies.

No Cavalier has played more than his 2,274 minutes, meaning the 20-year-old center will be a big miss as long as he is out while the Eastern Conference's seventh seeds prepare for the playoffs.

"With Evan, it's sometimes hard to tell because he's so quiet," said team-mate Love. "But I think he rolled it pretty good.

"It just takes the air out of the building and takes the air out of the team. It definitely has gutted us to lose Evan, whether it be for a game, two games, three games, whatever it may be.

"We just need to keep fighting and hope he recovers quickly and can be back out there with us, because he means so much to the team."

The win over the Magic moved the Cavs to 42-33, ensuring their first winning season since 2017-18 and their first without LeBron James since 1997-98.

Mobley's is not the team's first injury either, with Jarrett Allen and Rajon Rondo each out since early March. Collin Sexton, Ricky Rubio and Dean Wade are all done for the season.

Those absences are having an impact, with the Cavs 7-12 in their past 19 games, and coach J.B. Bickerstaff acknowledged how hard it was for the team to deal with this latest setback against the Magic.

"They have continued to stick together, fight for one another," Bickerstaff said.

"The injuries take a toll on you mentally and can be a distraction, and through that distraction, we complicated the game to a point where we didn't have to.

"I thought if we were continuing to do the simple things over and over again, we were getting positive results. We figured out a way."

The Miami Heat's slide continued on Saturday, with a disappointing 110-95 home defeat against the Brooklyn Nets making it four losses on the trot.

Miami entered the week multiple games clear of the chasing pack, but after the loss against the Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers usurped the Heat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs is far from over, as the top four teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics, are only separated by a half-game.

Things were ugly early for the Heat, with its once-feared defence giving up 40 points in just the second quarter to hand the Nets a 67-46 half-time lead, which was never threatened.

Kevin Durant led a balanced offensive performance from the Nets, finishing with a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each.

The win was Brooklyn's seventh from their past nine games, with Kyrie Irving set to make his home debut the next time out against the Charlotte Hornets.

No Morant, no problem

The Memphis Grizzlies passed another real test when the Milwaukee Bucks came to town, sending the reigning champions home with their tails between their legs after a 127-102 result.

In one of the more unlikely storylines of this season, the Grizzlies are now 17-2 in games where their best player and MVP candidate Ja Morant has not played.

Emerging franchise centrepiece Desmond Bane rose to the occasion, scoring 20 points on nine-of-19 shooting to go with five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr blocked two shots and snatched one steal to go with his 16 points and six rebounds.

Kings rookie continues to break out, Bulls finally beat a good team

With De'Aaron Fox missing yet again, Sacramento Kings rookie Davion Mitchell had his third consecutive game with at least 22 points and seven assists in his side's 114-110 overtime win against the Orlando Magic.

Mitchell's line of 22 points (10-of-23 from the field) with seven rebounds and nine assists comes after games of 25 points and seven assists against the Indiana Pacers, and 28 points with nine assists against the Phoenix Suns.

Meanwhile, after entering the game with a sputtering record of 3-10 in their past 13 games, the Chicago Bulls collected a much-needed 98-94 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since February 12, Chicago have only beaten two teams who currently occupy playoff spots – the Cavaliers, and the Toronto Raptors.

The Miami Heat's slide continued on Saturday night, with a disappointing 110-95 home defeat against the Brooklyn Nets making it four losses on the trot.

Miami entered the week multiple games clear of the chasing pack, but after the loss against the Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers usurped the Heat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs is far from over, as the top four teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics, are only separated by a half-game.

Things were ugly early for the Heat, with its once-feared defence giving up 40 points in just the second quarter to hand the Nets a 67-46 half-time lead, which was never threatened.

Kevin Durant led a balanced offensive performance from the Nets, finishing with a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each.

The win was Brooklyn's seventh from their past nine games, with Kyrie Irving set to make his home debut the next time out against the Charlotte Hornets.

No Morant, no problem

The Memphis Grizzlies passed another real test when the Milwaukee Bucks came to town, sending the reigning champions home with their tails between their legs after a 127-102 result.

In one of the more unlikely storylines of this season, the Grizzlies are now 17-2 in games where their best player and MVP candidate Ja Morant has not played.

Emerging franchise centrepiece Desmond Bane rose to the occasion, scoring 20 points on nine-of-19 shooting to go with five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr blocked two shots and snatched one steal to go with his 16 points and six rebounds.

Kings rookie continues to break out, Bulls finally beat a good team

With De'Aaron Fox missing yet again, Sacramento Kings rookie Davion Mitchell had his third consecutive game with at least 22 points and seven assists in his side's 114-110 overtime win against the Orlando Magic.

Mitchell's line of 22 points (10-of-23 from the field) with seven rebounds and nine assists comes after games of 25 points and seven assists against the Indiana Pacers, and 28 points with nine assists against the Phoenix Suns.

Meanwhile, after entering the game with a sputtering record of 3-10 in their past 13 games, the Chicago Bulls collected a much-needed 98-94 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since February 12, Chicago have only beaten two teams who currently occupy playoff spots – the Cavaliers, and the Toronto Raptors.

On a night where only one NBA game was played, Saddiq Bey made the most of the spotlight, scoring a career-high 51 points in the Detroit Pistons' 134-120 win against the Orlando Magic.

Bey, who at 22 became the youngest in Detroit Pistons history to score 50 points in a game, shot 17-of-27 from the field. This included a scorching 10-of-14 from three, while he also notched up nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

He is the eighth player to score 50 points in an NBA game this month.

With top pick Cade Cunningham out, former number-two pick and newly acquired Piston Marvin Bagley III enjoyed some extra responsibility, scoring 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Steve Nash joked Kyrie Irving produced more career highlights in the space of 12 minutes against the Orlando Magic than the Brooklyn Nets coach managed in his entire career.

Irving scored a career-high 60 points – the most for a Nets player in their NBA history – in Tuesday's 150-108 victory in Florida.

The seven-time NBA All-Star shot 20 for 31, which included eight of 12 on 3-pointers, and made 12 of 13 free throws in his 35 minutes on the court.

Forty-one of Irving's points came in the first half as he became the second Nets player over the past 25 years, after Deron Williams in March 2012, to have 40-plus points in a half.

It was an individual display that will long live in the memory, with Brooklyn coach Nash leading the tributes for the 29-year-old.

"He's just incredible. I felt like he had my career highlight reel in the first 12 minutes of the game," Nash said. 

"It's special to watch him every night – but it's special to watch him on nights like this, where he's in total control, total command. 

"He gets wherever he wants and is able to finish amongst the trees. It's just a pleasure to see it up close and to be a part of it."

 

Irving's 60-point display came a day after the Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns also hit that mark against the San Antonio Spurs.

It marks the first time that two players have scored 60 points on successive nights in NBA since 1962.

There have now been seven 50-point games in the NBA in March, which is tied for the most in a single month since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.

And Nets star Kevin Durant, who added 19 points in the win over Orlando, believes the division is now as strong as ever.

"The night after Karl Towns had an incredible performance, to then have Kyrie do it the next night, the league is in an incredible place right now," Durant said.

"I'm sure in the first quarter you saw it developing. Sixteen in the first and then midway through the second all of us on the bench are still looking.

"It's just like that every game for Ky, when you look up and, like, 'Damn, he got 10, 12, 14 points already'."

Durant scored 53 points in Sunday's win over the New York Knicks, making him and Irving the first team-mates in NBA history with 50+ points in back-to-back games.

"Making history, man. making history," Irving said when that stat was put to him. "Doing it with that guy is very special. But credit goes to our group. 

"Our guys in our locker room, they really believe in us, they really rock with us, there's not a doubt in our mind that they really believe that we can do something special. 

"And not just this year, but for years to come. We have a good group. And we're all sacrificing something that's bigger than ourselves."

He added: "When you're a kid scoring a bunch of points, it means something. When you're in the best league in the world doing it against the greatest, it means a little bit more."

The Nets have now won four games in a row to improve to 36-33 for the season, placing them eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Irving will not play against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday due to New York City's mandate requiring vaccination against COVID-19, though he intends to be in attendance.

"I'll probably wear a media pass," he joked. "It's a little awkwardness. 

"But I'll show up there with my family and get a warm embrace from New York, Brooklyn, everybody that's there to support the Nets and support our organisation, support me."

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