The Boston Celtics’ first-round NBA playoff matchup against the mighty Brooklyn Nets may not be competitive. But it should be plenty entertaining due in part to one man: Kyrie Irving.
The Nets guard and the Celtics will be forever linked after the C’s traded Isaiah Thomas as part of a blockbuster deal for Irving in the summer of 2017. Irving spent two polarizing seasons in Boston, playing some of the best basketball of his career (24.1 points and 6.1 assists over 127 games) but failing to lead the team out of the Eastern Conference amid chemistry issues and tension between teammates and staffers.
Irving has appeared in just three games against his former club since, all during the 2020-21 season and one in Boston with no fans in attendance.
But the talented point guard still has a relatively large sample size against the Celtics thanks to his first six seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For a preview of what the C’s are up against, we’ll break down Irving’s career stats versus Boston and relive some of his notable performances (on-court and off) against his former club.
Dec. 18, 2020, Celtics vs. Nets: The sage game
Irving's first game in Boston since leaving the Celtics in 2019 to sign with Brooklyn was ... interesting.
Prior to the preseason contest, the veteran point guard burned sage around the TD Garden floor to "cleanse the energy" in the building.
The ritual worked for Irving, who put up 17 points in 28 minutes en route to a 113-89 Nets rout.
Dec. 25, 2020, Celtics vs. Nets: Christmas Day statement
Irving showed out in his first regular-season game at TD Garden since his Celtics exit.
He poured in 37 points on 7-of-10 shooting from 3-point range, added a game-high eight assists and was a ridiculous plus-31 in Brooklyn's 123-95 beatdown of Boston on national TV.
March 11, 2021, Celtics at Nets: Kyrie outduels Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum kept this game competitive with a team-high 31 points, but his former teammate raised his game to another level.
With Kevin Durant sidelined, Irving dropped 40 points and eight rebounds on Boston and scored 22 in the second half to will the Nets to a 121-109 victory.
After the game, Irving gave a prickly response when asked about hugging his ex-Celtics teammates on the court.
April 23, 2021, Celtics at Nets: C's hold Irving in check
The good news: There is evidence of Irving struggling against Boston. With Durant and James Harden out, the All-Star guard managed just 15 points on 4-of-19 shooting (0 for 6 from 3-point range) and was a minus-10.
The bad news? The Celtics still lost. Irving got his teammates involved with a game-high 11 assists as Brooklyn held off Boston's 17-point comeback in a 109-104 win.
Wins against the Celtics are a recurring theme for Irving, who is 8-1 versus Boston in postseason play and has won his last four regular-season matchups with the C's. And aside from the occasional outlier, Kyrie tends to bring his A game against the green.