Kyrie Irving put the Celtics ahead of his own personal health during the team’s 92-88 win over the Warriors on Thursday night. Despite attempts to keep playing with a protective mask as he recovers from a facial fracture, Irving eventually ditched the extra equipment altogether.
Irving had a tough night shooting, going 4-for-16 from the field, and it didn’t get any better after removing his mask. But the superstar guard showed no fear driving to the hoop even without the facial protection and made his free throws (7-for-8) when he got them.
When asked after the game about whether he was nervous playing without the mask, Irving acknowledged that he knew the kind of danger he was putting himself in with his facial injury.
“I knew the decision I was making, the health risk I was taking. It’s my life,” he said.
Kyrie went mask off to finish the Warriors. pic.twitter.com/LHRy8LLi9j— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 17, 2017
Head coach Brad Stevens lauded Irving for battling through an off night to help the team just enough down the stretch.
“He was able to get to the foul line and overcame an otherwise tough shooting night, but that’s what really, really good players do is they find a way when it’s all on the line, no matter the circumstances throughout the game,” Stevens told reporters after the game.
Stevens also said that Celtics trainers told him there were no potential issues with Irving playing without the mask beyond the obvious health risks. As you may expect, the trainers told the coach it was “not recommended” for Irving to play without the mask.
Obviously, Irving was able to escape the game without doing any further damage to his face. He’s not out of the woods just yet. But clearly, it’s a risk that he’s willing to take in order to be at his best.