BOSTON — Back in February, after an embarrassing loss in Chicago, Kyrie Irving suggested the Celtics would be just fine in the playoffs. Asked for a reason, he replied, “Because I’m here.”
It seemed potentially overconfident in the moment but nights like Wednesday's Game 2 victory over the Indiana Pacers suggest, maybe just maybe, Irving was on to something.
Irving scored a game-high 37 points while connecting on 15 of 26 shots in Boston’s 99-91 triumph at TD Garden. The Celtics lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 as it shifts to Indiana for Game 3 Friday and Game 4 Sunday.
Maybe the most astounding part of Irving’s night: He attempted only two free throws (limiting his “MVP!” chants to one session). Irving connected on six of the 10 3-pointers he hoisted overall.
It was a dazzling offensive display replete with some big-time shot-making. While the Celtics needed multiple players on their roster to step up during Wednesday’s rally from a fourth-quarter, double-digit deficit — and Terry Rozier provided a big boost, particularly early in the fourth quarter while Irving got a breather — Irving repeatedly came up with must-have baskets in a game where Irving accounted for 37.5 percent of his team’s total field goals.
Irving is no stranger to big games in Boston, alas most in the playoffs came as a member of the Cavaliers. So what's it like now, a year after missing the postseason due to a pair of knee surgeries, for Irving to be starring in a Celtics uniform?
“It’s pretty peaceful,” said Irving. "I’m just happy to be able to be part of a lineage of great players that have put on some unbelievable performances here in the TD as well as in the old Garden.
"It’s really special to know that the fans here, they’re rooting us on and they want everything to be perfect. It’s just not the reality of the game, but we do our best to go out there and really lay it all out on the line. We throw ourselves into the game and we hope for some great results. So we’ve just gotta have some just honest resolve. But it felt good to be here in this position, playing in this arena.”
While Irving’s mood this season has often hinged on the play of the team, it’s clear he’s enjoying the early stages of Boston’s postseason stay. For all the frustrations of the regular season, Irving’s wait-for-the-playoffs proclamation looks a bit prescient at the moment.
"It’s just been a long journey, having those two knee surgeries and watching the team last year,” said Irving. "And finally getting a chance to lace ‘em up for the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs, there’s nothing like it.”
When Irving is cooking like he was on Wednesday night, his teammates know to feed the hot hand.
"Just sit back and watch,” said Jaylen Brown. "Kyrie has the ability to take over games, that’s what makes him special.”
As backup point guard Terry Rozier noted, Boston’s game plan was pretty simple with Irving clicking. Said Rozier: “We let Kyrie be Kyrie.”
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