Brooklyn Nets Star Kyrie Irving’s Next Trip To Boston: Next Season
Kyrie Irving won’t have to return to Boston until next season.
The next round of boos and “(expletive) yous” will simply have to wait.
The Brooklyn Nets dispatched of Irving’s former team in five games, clinching what should be a scintillating second-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks by virtue of their 123-109 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
Irving’s virtuoso 39-point, 11-rebound effort in Game 4 — and the despicable act by that knucklehead fan in its aftermath — will prove to be the most memorable moment of the first-round series.
But James Harden proved to be Brooklyn’s most consistent all-around performer against Boston.
Harden posted a triple-double in Game 5 — the franchise’s first in the playoffs since Jason Kidd in 2007 — finishing with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. For the series, he averaged 27.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 10.6 assists while posting a staggering 56/58/91 shooting line. The Nets were also 76 points better than the Celtics with “The Beard” on the court.
“I just came here to make an impact on the game,” Harden told reporters.
He also came to win that elusive championship.
MORE FOR YOU
The Nets — who won a series for the first time since 2014 — were in disarray when they went all-in to get No. 13. At that point, Irving was a massive question mark. He was away from the team — having just violated health and safety protocols — and the organization was upset with him.
Harden, of course, came with his own set of question marks. But after playing his way into shape, he’s emphatically answered all of them. Yes, he’s a great teammate. Yes, he’s a great vocal leader. And yes, he’ll absolutely pass the ball. Anything to win.
Harden, who looks like his MVP self again after dealing with a hamstring injury late in the season, fills up the boxscore the same way that Kidd used to in New Jersey. It’s why everyone in the organization loves him. Five years ago, the Nets had Donald Sloan and Wayne Ellington in the backcourt. And now, they have Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Irving, it should be noted, has been a brilliant offensive performer since his return — not just in terms of highlights but also efficiency.
Brooklyn’s Big Three — which played just eight games together in the regular season — averaged 85.2 points against the Celtics, with the three-man lineup outscoring Boston by 23.1 points per 100 possessions. Kevin Durant — in his first playoff series since the awful Achilles’ tear — averaged a team-high 32.6 points, while Irving chipped in 24.8.
The Celtics played the Nets tough, but simply didn’t have the talent to keep up. Jayson Tatum gave everything he had — a potential top-five player in the league one day — but didn’t have the supporting cast necessary to pull off an upset. (An aside: The Kemba Walker-Kyrie Irving debate has taken another turn. Walker has knee issues, and $73.7 million left on his deal over the next two years).
In the end, Brad Stevens was right.
The Bucks, however, pose a significant threat. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 39.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in three games versus Brooklyn during the regular season. Jrue Holiday is a two-way stalwart. Khris Middleton can hit big shots. PJ Tucker is a heady pest.
The Nets can take solace in the fact that Harden, Durant and Irving never played together in any of those three matchups, two of which were won by Milwaukee. Brooklyn also has homecourt advantage in what figures to be a series that could go the distance.
The pressure is on both teams. The Nets hope their offensive starpower can outshine the Bucks’ defense and physicality.
With James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant all healthy and rolling, the title dream is very much alive.