Kyrie Irving very nearly ripped Boston’s collective heart out. Instead, Jayson Tatum got the best of him at the game’s biggest moment. And a thrilling ending capped a memorable afternoon filled with strong emotions, particularly from Irving and the Boston faithful.
Irving scored 18 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, and gave the Nets a three-point lead on a clutch shot with just 45.9 seconds left in regulation. That was despite the fact that the majority of the crowd at TD Garden booed Irving heavily whenever he touched the ball, and erupted whenever he made a mistake.
At one point, Irving turned and briefly flipped his middle finger toward the fans after hitting one of his many clutch shots late in the game. So that’ll be one of the series’ indelible images. But he missed out on the chance to deliver the ultimate middle finger and lead the Nets to a win. He and Brooklyn instead face a 1-0 deficit and an uphill climb to overcome the Celtics’ balanced attack and excellent defense over a seven-game series.
Naturally, Irving was asked about his … interactions … with the fans, and in classic form, he had plenty to say. Irving made it sound like he welcomed the Celtics fans’ energy and seemed to imply that he looked tough?
“Where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and people being close nearby,” Irving said. “It’s nothing new when I come into this building, what it’s going to be like, but that’s the energy they have for me, and I’m gonna have the same energy for them. And it’s not every fan, I don’t want to attack every Boston fan. But when people start yelling ‘pussy’ and ‘bitch’ and ‘f*** you’ and all this stuff, it’s [only] so much you can take as a competitor. We’re the ones expected to be docile and humble and take a humble approach. Nah, that’s the playoffs, it is what it is. I know what to expect in here, and it’s the same energy I’m giving back to them.
“I’m not really focused on it, it’s fun. Again, where I’m from, I’ve dealt with so much, so coming in here, you relish it as a competitor. I’m gonna keep repeating myself, but this isn’t my first time at TD Garden. What you guys saw, and what you guys think is entertainment, or the fans think is entertainment, all is fair in competition. So if somebody’s gonna call me out on my name, I’m gonna look at them straight in the eye and see if they’re really about it. Most of the time they’re not.”
He cared so little about the fan reaction, he had only 221 words on the matter.
Plenty more will be said about Irving’s singular mix of on-court brilliance and off-court antics. Love him (Nets fans?) or hate him (all of Boston?), he’s one of the game’s most compelling figures, and he delivered in all facets on Sunday. Fortunately for Boston, the Celtics got the last laugh in this one.
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