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Nets’ Irving hoping to get even with Celtics

Superstar guard bringing 'same energy' to Game 2 in Boston

April 19, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kyrie Irving is looking forward to raising two fingers in the air at some point Wednesday night in Boston.

He’ll do so either to point out that the Brooklyn Nets have evened their best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Celtics at one game apiece, or to demonstrate his frustrations with the TD Garden crowd.

“I know what to expect in here,” Irving said after Sunday’s 115-114 loss to Boston in Game 1 Sunday, when he flipped off fans on two occasions for what he described as insulting and inflammatory comments.

“It’s not every fan,” Irving insisted. “I don’t want to attack every fan, every Boston fan. When people start yelling ‘p—y’ or ‘b—-‘ and ‘f— you’ and all this stuff, there’s only but so much you take as a competitor. We’re the ones expected to be docile and be humble, take a humble approach, f— that, it’s the playoffs. This is what it is.”

The Nets were seconds away from walking out of the building with a 1-0 lead before Jayson Tatum beat the buzzer for the winning basket.

The combination of Boston fans attacking Irving and Brooklyn’s emotional letdown after the narrow defeat resulted in hard feelings following the game.

None more than Irving’s following a two-year stint in Beantown that ended with him escaping to Downtown Brooklyn via a deal with the Nets in the summer of 2019.

The mercurial playmaker has clearly moved on since, but Celtics fans haven’t. They will be back in full throat and doubtlessly ramp up the gesturing when the Nets hit the court for Game 2.

Kevin Durant was smothered by the Celtics defense in Game 1, but he and the Nets will look to get back to Brooklyn tied 1-1. AP Photo by Steven Senne

“So if somebody’s going to call me out on my name, I’m gonna look at them straight in the eye and see if they really ’bout it,” Irving noted.

“Most of the time they’re not. “Look, where I’m from, I’m used to all these antics and people being close nearby,” Irving added after putting up a game-high 39 points in the opener. It’s nothing new when I come into this building what it’s going to be like — but it’s the same energy they have for me, I’m going to have the same energy for them.”

Kevin Durant finished with 23 points Sunday and had a few words for what figures to be an escalated situation for Irving Wednesday night.

“I don’t think he worries about it,” he said. “I think he just plays his game and do what’s required out there. And tonight, the shot-making, just controlling the game for us, was incredible. And that’s what we’re going to need going forward — so matter where he’s at, I think he’s the same player.”

But the Nets can’t have the same result without coming back to Barclays Center Saturday night in a perilous 0-2 hole after eliminating the Celtics in five games in last year’s opening round.

Win or lose, Irving isn’t backing down from the 19,000-plus fans who will be watching his every move in Game 2.

“It’s the same energy I’m giving back to them. It is what it is. I’m not really focused on it, it’s fun, you know what I’m saying?” Irving noted.

“Where I’m from I’ve dealt with so much, so coming in here you relish it as a competitor. … This isn’t my first time at TD Garden so what you guys saw, what you guys think is entertainment, or the fans think is entertainment, all is fair in competition.

Steve Nash doesn’t believe the Celtic crowd will get to Kyrie Irving in Game 2 Wednesday night at Boston’s TD Garden. AP Photo by Steven Senne

NOTHING BUT NET: The Nets will host Game 3 Saturday and Game 4 Monday night before heading to Boston for Game 5, if necessary, … Tatum finished with 31 points in Game 1 and his buzzer-beater to win a playoff game was Boston’s first since 2010 vs. Miami. … Durant only managed to make 9-of-24 shots Sunday afternoon. “They did a good job of forcing me away, then helping in the paint,” he revealed. “I just got to be more fundamental in my moves. I feel like some shots went in an out for me.”

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