A white towel wrapped round his neck, a victorious Kyrie Irving slapped palms with teammates as he walked onto the TD Garden ground. At midcourt, a digital camera caught him planting his left foot on the top of the Celtics’ leprechaun brand, pivoting to his proper, and defiantly dragging his foot throughout the leprechaun’s face earlier than heading for the tunnel.
Irving had earned that second, given the abuse he had taken from the gang throughout two hostile nights. What he didn’t earn was the water bottle thrown at him on his way to the locker room, apparently hurled by a moron in a Kevin Garnett jersey, a fan final seen in handcuffs being escorted out of the constructing by police.
“As a black man playing in the NBA,” Irving mentioned, “dealing with a lot of this stuff is fairly difficult because you never know what can happen.”
Irving had talked about this habits forward of his return to Boston. He warned of belligerence and racism, or subtle racism, whereas others argued that the gang response can be strictly tied to his damaged promise to re-sign with the Celtics. Either method, there is no such thing as a doubt that followers all through the playoffs, not simply in Boston, have acted repulsively towards gamers.
“Just treating people like they’re in a human zoo,” Irving mentioned.
These followers shouldn’t simply be banned from NBA arenas for all times; they need to be prosecuted for placing folks at risk in a public setting, and creating an environment that might encourage one other “Malice in the Palace” riot just like the one which went down in 2004.
Irving mentioned he simply needed to maneuver on and get residence to his household after Brooklyn’s 141-126 victory gave the Nets a 3-1 series lead, and what a rattling, crying disgrace that was, too. He shouldn’t have to maneuver on from one of many biggest performances of his profession. He blitzed his former group with 39 factors and 11 rebounds, placing on a clinic in attack-mode basketball.
Strange how this vacation weekend homecoming labored out. Even although he was gesturing on the crowd to deliver extra noise, Irving appeared rattled in Game 3 in entrance of fewer than 5,000 followers. And but with greater than 17,000 followers in the home for Game 4, Brooklyn’s level guard-turned-shooting guard got here throughout as focus and impressed … not less than till that flying bottle practically hit him within the head.
The perpetrator couldn’t steal all of Irving’s pleasure, and couldn’t erase the end result’s enduring message: This is why you rent Kyrie Irving to play basketball in your group. So a lot time is spent breaking down his flaws as a teammate, and the holes in his method, that it’s simple to overlook the explanations we cared about him within the first place.
Irving is, as Steve Nash calls him, an all-world participant. The identical Boston followers who hated on him used to cheer for him, and hope he may sometime cling championship banner No. 18.
The relationship unraveled, however the expertise remained intact. Irving arrived in Brooklyn as a degree guard who proved that he couldn’t solely win a championship (albeit with an all-time nice at his facet), however that he may additionally win a championship by sinking the most important of Game 7 photographs. Sometimes high-maintenance gamers are definitely worth the upkeep.
Irving had 12 factors on the finish of the primary quarter, 23 on the half, and 31 factors and 9 rebounds after three quarters Sunday.
“When Ky’s aggressive like that,” mentioned James Harden, good for an absurd 18 assists, “nobody can guard him.”
In the center of the third, Irving confirmed off the athleticism he not often exhibits — swooping in for a put-back dunk off a Blake Griffin miss. Near the tip of that quarter, he confirmed off some postseason competitiveness you prefer to see — refusing to assist an opponent (Grant Williams) whose outstretched palms signaled that he anticipated to be lifted off the ground. Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Red Auerbach would have accredited.
In the sport’s closing minutes, Irving swooped in once more to faucet in a Harden miss off the glass along with his left hand. He was a whirling dervish for 41 minutes, and when he was performed for the evening, Irving stood with Kevin Durant close to the bench. Durant had scored 42. The two of them have been pointing at a stat sheet like giddy highschool youngsters.
“I had a good feeling about him tonight,” Nash mentioned of Irving, “and he was outstanding. I just loved his will.”
Nash gave his man a heat hug earlier than he headed for the tunnel. Then got here the bottle, and the commotion, and the condemnation. Now why Kyrie Irving felt the best way he did about his return to Boston.
And now you bear in mind why the Celtics traded for him within the first place.