A Masked Kyrie Irving Leads Celtics Past Nets

A Masked Kyrie Irving Leads Celtics Past Nets

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It was not exactly the Masked Kyrie moment that fans on social media were calling for, but Kyrie Irving of the Celtics returned from a facial fracture and helped lead Boston to a 109-102 win over the Nets on Tuesday.

Irving, who had said before the game that he hated wearing a mask regardless of his past success while wearing one, was forced to endure the discomfort because of a fracture below his left eye that he sustained when he was inadvertently elbowed by his teammate, Aron Baynes, on Friday in the first quarter of a win over the Charlotte Hornets.

It was a battle between Irving and the molded plastic mask throughout the game, as he pulled it off and tossed it aside at any opportunity. But Boston was happy to have him back, as he produced 25 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in 29 minutes at Barclays Center. Seven of his points came in the fourth quarter as Boston held off a late charge by the Nets, earning the team’s 13th consecutive victory.

“I just want to keep this thing as pretty as possible,” Irving said before the game, referring to his face. “It’s getting tougher and tougher the more aggressive I play.”

Irving then proved his point, and the necessity of the mask, when he collided with DeMarre Carroll of the Nets in the third quarter. Irving was not injured, but with his face still healing, the impact certainly could have exacerbated the injury if not for the added protection.

The history of Irving and masks dates to 2012, when he broke a bone in his jaw. On short notice, the Cleveland Cavaliers cobbled together a black mask for Irving to wear in a start against the Knicks — and he proceeded to score 41 points in a loss. He then switched to a clear mask, which he wore for the next 18 games, and produced noticeably higher scoring averages and shooting percentages despite his complaints about the mask interfering with his peripheral vision.

Largely because of the fond memories of his high-scoring game against the Knicks in the dramatic black mask, the thought of Irving coming back in a mask for Boston inspired plenty of creativity online.

The game initially looked like it would be a blowout in the Celtics’ favor, but the Nets put up a fight and went into halftime with the score tied following a 14-0 run in the second quarter. Caris LeVert, with 15 points, was a sparkplug for a Nets bench that outscored Boston’s reserves, 35-13, but the Celtics simply had too much talent in the starting lineup for the Nets to keep up. Along with Irving, the Celtics got a big performance from Marcus Morris, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continued to be tenacious on both ends of the court.

Irving said he would be wearing the mask for a “couple weeks,” so if he wants to ensure the future of his reputation for thriving in a mask, there is still time for him to produce another blockbuster game.

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