BOSTON – There was a time when Celtics fans cheered for Kyrie Irving. He can remember the summer of 2017, when Irving left Cleveland for Boston, where he admired Celtics’ history and pledged to do what he could to help the team win.
But in the two years of Irving and the Celtics, all the fun was in the category of things: tolerance in the face of injury, then impatience when criticizing colleagues, then something like anger when it became clear that he and Boston were in bondage. due to divorce.
On Sunday afternoon, Irving had returned to Boston, where an enthusiastic crowd at TD Garden baptized Game 1 of the Celtics and Nets’ first game series by shooting Irving at every turn. He shouted at her as he stepped off the sidewalk to warm her up. They scolded him during the introduction. He insulted her every time she touched the ball. And he was about to silence them with another tour de force in a mission filled with them.
But at the start of the seven-game winning streak between the teams with the most goals, Jayson Tatum sent the ball into the dugout with a sleepless draw that saw the Celtics win 115-114. Game 2 is in Boston on Wednesday.
Irving was amazing. He finished with 39 points and 6 assists, and 3 pointer with 45.9 seconds left put the Nets ahead with 3. Inwardly, he reminded Boston of why the city wanted him first, emphasizing all the pain that followed. .
The Celtics didn’t panic at the last minute, but when Jaylen Brown drove to sleep, Kevin Durant of the Nets missed a long 3-pointer. At the other end, Celtics’ Marcus Smart found Tatum, who surrounded Irving to rest as the clock went down. It was his simple bucket for the night.
“I think it’s kind of the microcosm of our era: the boys are moving the ball, playing unselfishly,” said Celtics coach Ime Udoka. “It all came down to the final price.”
Tatum finished with 31 points, and Brown had 23. Smart had an amazing round game, collecting 20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. Durant had 23 points and just shot 9 out of 24.
For the second straight postseason, the Nets and Celtics meet in the first round. In the end, the Nets advanced to five games in a series that only added to the tension between Irving, who appeared to be trampling on the Celtics logo in the middle of the court, with Boston fans, one of whom hit a water bottle.
The articles also contributed to major changes in the Celtic movement. Brad Stevens moved to the front office eight seasons later as head coach. His career was filled with Udoka, a longtime NBA assistant and student of Gregg Popovich who seems to have opened up the potential for Tatum and Brown. Remember when the Celtics had a lost record, 23-24, at the end of January? He closed the regular season and went 28-7.
Udoka entered the list known as the Nets. Last season, as one of Coach’s co-founders Steve Nash, Udoka met Irving and Durant – with their gifts.
“He’s a top scorer, and he’s got what he’s got,” said Udoka before Sunday’s game. “You just have to watch them and not let them go.”
In the midst of a careless, nasty start, the Celtics’ top defense gave the Nets, forcing seven converts in the first quarter. Collected players – Irving, Durant, Brown and Tatum – were included in missing 12 of their first 14 game tests.
Irving went first in the second quarter with 3-pointers, second in the draw. The game was tied at 61 during the Celtics’ break before the start – a shock that was predicted for their defense. Towards the end of the third season, Jaylen Brown blocked the Nets’ Bruce Brown on the edge, then ran to turn the other end. The Nets then took their time, but Tatum blocked a shot that Durant fired, then hit a 3-pointer to extend Boston’s lead to 11th.
Irving was unwavering in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points in 7 of 9 shots, which led to the game.
The Nets secured seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoffs by defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Tuesday’s tournament. The Celtics had a longer time, and a full week to prepare, as they closed their regular season on April 10 as the 2nd seed. Before Sunday’s game, Udoka challenged the question about rust.
“Working well with the team is like a business,” he said, adding: “We are calm when I don’t feel like we have any worries or fears there.”
The Celtics were without Robert Williams, their rib cage, for the fourth year in a row. Williams had time to rest when he tore the meniscus out of his left knee last month and underwent surgery. Udoka said the Celtics were preparing as if Williams would not be on the list, though Udoka did not rule out the possibility – even remotely – of Williams’ return. “She is OK,” said Udoka.
Prior to the game, the Celtics players embellished a few items on video in the stadium and. highlighting words from Bruce Brown about how the Nets could “attack” Al Horford and Daniel Theis Williams are absent. (Crowds screamed.) Horford was awesome on Sunday, finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds, and was all over the place. Williams, of course, could only add to the team’s hopes.
Nets are used to wait, too. He is waiting for Irving to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and when he refuses to do so, he waits for New York City to upgrade its vaccine so they can play home games. Now, the Nets are waiting – still – waiting for Ben Simmons to take the court for the first time since finding him in a mid-season trade with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Simmons, who has not played since last postseason, has been battling a major problem since arriving in Brooklyn, and no one knows what he would look like if he started against the Celtics. On Saturday, apparently for the benefit of reporters who monitored his progress, Simmons held a fitness session.
“Make sure you get this,” he said to his photographers and their phones.
On Sunday, the Simmons wore fancy glasses on the guest bench while Irving and the rest of the Nets did their business in the barracks. For one afternoon, perhaps, and on the very edge, the Celtics were a complete team.