With the entire basketball-watching universe impatiently waits for Game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, it’s a perfect time to look back at another game 7 performance by Cavaliers’ point guard Kyrie Irving … his 7th game at Duke, which is either one of the brightest memories in recent history on Tobacco Road, or a way-too-painful reminder of what we were robbed of during his injury shortened freshman season.
The sixth ranked Spartans traveled to Durham to take on the top ranked defending national champion Blue Devils as the main event of the ACC/Big Ten challenge, boasting one of Tom Izzo’s best-ever lineups, including Golden State’s Draymond Green. Duke had looked every bit the part in the early season, but Duke’s electric freshman hadn’t yet put together a complete performance, generally deferring to guys like Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, and Mason Plumlee to carry the offensive load.
The Michigan State game served as Kyrie’s coming out party, scoring a game-high 31 points on just 12 shots, leading Duke to a 5 point win and making a strong case for national player of the year and a possible back-to-back championship run. Of course, all of that ended in the very next game as a foot injury sidelined Irving through the rest of the regular season after scoring 21 points against Butler in a title game rematch.
We never got Kyrie in a Duke/UNC game. We never got Kyrie in an ACC tournament. But we’ll always have Kyrie versus Michigan State showing flashes of what we’ve seen in the NBA Finals this season.