Boston Celtics

As most of his appearances at TD Garden since the end of his Celtics tenure have presented, Boston fans met Kyrie Irving with heavy boos and heckles during game one of the first-round playoff series between the Nets and Celtics on Sunday.

Throughout the game, Irving not only took the fanfare but also gave it back as well, mimicking fans and … gesturing … to the crowd.

When asked about the back and forth with Boston fans, Irving was candid in his feelings.

“Embrace it,” Irving told reporters. “It’s the dark side. Embrace it.”

Irving more than rose to the occasion as the villain, in addition to putting on a high-caliber scoring performance with 39 points, including clutch shots and 18 points in the fourth quarter. Despite the extra dramatics of his crowd interactions, Irving restated that the focus is on the court.

“There’s no hostility, bro,” Irving said. “It’s basketball.”

Irving’s scoring and antics from the fans will be headlines to follow as the series rolls on.

PHOTOS: Celtics beat Nets in Game 1 of their playoff series

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How the Celtics came together on clutch final play in Game 1

  • Here are some more takeaways from the Celtics’ Game 1 win over the Nets…

    Playing Smart

    Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets defends Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter of Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs at TD Garden on April 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets defends Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics during the first quarter of Round 1 Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs at TD Garden on April 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Marcus Smart in another year might’ve taken an ill-advised three with two defenders in his face. Instead, his unselfishness and intelligence shined on the game’s final play, as Smart made the best possible decision at the best possible time.

    Smart’s growth as a player and teammate has been one of the keys to the team’s surge in the second half of the regular season, as he’s taken a clear backseat as a scorer to Tatum and Brown. He’s played to his strengths as a facilitator and defender, and taken the shot when the time was right.

    For Smart, in this game, that time came in a sudden 11-point burst over a three-minute stretch in the third quarter, sparked by his steal of Kyrie Irving’s inbound pass and easy dunk. He finished with a box score-stuffing 20 points, six assists, seven rebounds, and two steals, and his all-around game was another microcosm of the Celtics’ balanced effort on Sunday.

  • Size Matters

    Apr 17, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) and Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) work for the ball in the second quarter during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 17, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) and Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) work for the ball in the second quarter during game one of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    One game in, it appears the Celtics present a problem to the Nets. Even without center Robert Williams III, their sheer size and length up and down the lineup is proving tough for the Nets to hang with them in the frontcourt.

    Al Horford scored 20 points on 8-for-13 (61.5 percent) from the floor, largely from the paint and around the rim. He also pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds; the Nets’ five starters had 16 rebounds combined. That included just one for Brooklyn’s Bruce Brown, who called out Horford specifically in comments made about the Celtics’ defense heading into the game.

    It goes beyond Horford. Three Nets starters stood at 6-foot-4 or smaller. Among their entire active roster on Sunday, only Kevin Durant, Andre Drummond, and Nic Claxton stood at 6-foot-10 or bigger. They very nearly overcame those shortcomings, but the size difference showed up in glaring fashion on the final play, when the 6-foot-8 Tatum spun around the 6-foot-2 Irving. This will be something to monitor in the games ahead.

  • Sounds of the Game

    Listen below for a must-hear call from 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell, as they reacted to the Nets and Celtics’ final possessions in what Grande called an “instant classic” Game 1.

NEXT: Marcus Smart one step closer to the ultimate defensive accolade