Irving trying to maximise efficiency after playing through pain barrier to inspire Mavs
Kyrie Irving is focusing on maximising his on-court efficiency after returning from injury in style for the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Irving had been absent from the Mavs' previous three games due to soreness on his right foot, the team winning only one of those outings.
But his importance to the Mavs was clear to see as he returned to the court for the 111-110 win away to the Los Angeles Lakers, posting a game-high 38 points, plus six rebounds and six assists.
It was one of those assists that proved decisive at the end, as Irving lured two Lakers players before spotting Maxi Kleber wide open, and he ultimately drained the buzzer-beating three-pointer.
"I'm just grateful I was able to have my head on a swivel," he said post-game.
"I thought for a second about forcing that two up to tie the game, but I saw Maxi open and AD [the Lakers' Anthony Davis] helping a little too much, so I tried to get into his shot pocket, and I'm glad I got it to [Kleber] with enough time to at least get the shot off.
"I could easily be sitting in this position with a loss. It was just that kind of game, but I'm glad we were resilient.
"We got really lucky and fortunate at the end of the regulation, so I'm glad it worked out for us."
Certainly, Irving's inspirational impact showed few signs of any lingering issues with his foot.
But he hinted afterwards that he did play through the pain barrier a little, meaning he felt the need to think extra carefully about how he operated on court.
"It would feel better if my wife rubbed on it when I get home... Watch it," he said with a grin.
"I just need to take care of it. Again, I said a few days ago it's a little worse than I thought, but I've just got to manage it, and I'm not going to sit up here and make any excuses."
On his efficiency, Irving added: "I don't think it's any extra science or anything like that, but it comes down to being intentional about my reps.
"I could sit at home or be on the court and be like, 'I wish my foot felt as great as it has all season', but it's just not the reality.
"Just taking my reps out there on the floor and being efficient in the opportunities I have.
"It's not the first time I've played with an injury or anything like that. Just keep pushing and keep getting rehab and recovery to put myself in the best position."
The Mavs are sixth in the West with a 36-35 record after beating the Lakers, who are 10th on 34-37.