Things haven’t gone so well for Kyrie Irving since he stomped on the Boston Celtics logo during last year’s playoffs. His Brooklyn Nets were bounced from the postseason the following round, and he’s had a frustrating 2021-2022 season because he’s only able to play in road games due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.
His Nets are below .500 after Sunday’s loss to the Celtics on Sunday. After the game, Irving, booed nearly every time he touched the ball at TD Garden, spoke about the difference between the Nets and his former team.
Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are struggling for a playoff spot
With Sunday’s loss to the Celtics, the Nets fell to 32-33 and find themselves in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. The Nets entered the season as a good bet to win the NBA title, with Irving and Kevin Durant leading the way.
Durant has battled injuries. Irving can only play half the team’s games because he’s unvaccinated. James Harden, who had given the Nets the best trio in the NBA, was sent packing to the Philadelphia 76ers in a deal for the disgruntled Ben Simmons. Simmons isn’t quite ready to play, leaving the Nets in a messy situation.
The Nets, losers of six of their last seven games, including their last four, are struggling and dangerous at the same time. With Durant and Irving, they can score with any team in the league. The problem is that tandem hadn’t played together since Jan. 12. Against Boston, the Nets showed how prolific they can be offensively, but they looked like a team that was unfamiliar with one another.
“We looked like a brand-new team,” Nets coach Steve Nash said, per The Athletic. “Guys never played together before as a group, and they looked like a team that knew exactly what they were doing, and that’s the gap for our group is to find that cohesion, that understanding and be able to execute in those situations. To me, that was the difference.”
Kyrie Irving explained the difference between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics on Sunday
Durant finished with 37 points, and Irving added 19 in Sunday’s high-scoring matchup. The game was close throughout. While Brooklyn struggled to find some cohesiveness, Irving summed up the difference between the teams in two words.
“Jayson Tatum,” Irving said, per NESN.
Tatum finished with a game-high 54 points, scoring 34 in the second half. He made 16 of 30 shots from the floor and went 8-for-15 from three-point land. He was the best player on the court Sunday afternoon.
“Whenever he has a big offensive game like that, it kind of loosens everybody else up on the court,” Irving said after the game. “They start getting easy ones in transition, their defense picks up and then you just see the level of intensity pick up on their end.”
Durant also got in on the high praise of Tatum.
“He’s an elite shot-maker,” Durant said. “He’s been knocking them down, playing with confidence.”
Irving taunted by Celtics fans, but he had nothing but good things to say about the team
Throughout the game, Irving was booed nearly every time he touched the basketball. He also endured the chants of “Kyrie sucks” at certain points.
After the game, Irving said he knew what he would be in for when he set foot into TD Garden as an opponent.
“I know it’s going to be like that for the rest of my career coming in here,” Irving told reporters after the game. “It’s like the scorned girlfriend who wants an explanation on why I left but still hoping for a text back. I’m just like, ‘It’s fun while it lasted.’ I think that’s the relationship that makes it fun.”
While he fell out of favor with the Boston fans after his departure, Irving took the high road and praised the organization.
“The reality is I’m just grateful for my time here in Boston,” Irving said. “Everyone in the front office, everyone in that locker room treated me well. Still have lasting relationships in our league that extend as a brotherhood for us and the league. We still remain close. To see the growth of a lot of guys that I played with on this team and seeing this core group back together.
“I was with these guys when they were pups. … I just have mutual respect for them and coming back in this environment, we know what it is. Just got to lock in on the mission, stay focused and not try to have too many conversations with fans on the side when they call me out on my name.”