Irving leads rout of Celtics in return to Boston Garden

Sports

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Kyrie Irving circled the Boston Garden parquet floor performing a spiritual cleansing ritual by waving burning sage in his hands before tipoff, then proceeded to torch his former team.

After receiving hugs and high-fives at midcourt before tipoff from former teammates Tristan Thompson, Marcus Smart and others, the Nets point guard got down to business and handed out some punishment to the Boston Celtics. Irving scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals helping the Nets rout the Celtics 113-89 Friday night in the final preseason game for both teams.

“Coming here is easy,” Irving said. “Basketball’s the easy part. It’s the external stuff.”

Irving’s full game was on display.

He knocked down a 3-pointer over Semi Ojeleye from the left wing after creating a smidgeon of space with a pump fake. He drove the lane and canned a 15-foot step-back jumper with Jaylen Brown draped over him. And he delivered a picture-perfect pass to teammate Kevin Durant for another bucket.

“It’s like going to another day at the job,” Irving said. “I’m grateful to have relationships with guys here.”

Kyrie’s mother, Elizabeth Irving, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and Kyrie was welcomed into the tribe in a 2018 ceremony. Native Americans practice “smudging,” which is a spiritual ritual to “cleanse a person or space, and to promote healing and wisdom,” according to WebMD.

“Just to cleanse the energy,” Irving said after the game.

Irving opted out in the summer of 2019 and was heckled persistently when he returned to Boston with the Nets, though he didn’t play because of a sore shoulder. There were no fans in the new Boston Garden on Friday night, and his introduction was greeted with a faint, fake cheer.

NETS 113, CELTICS 89

At Boston, Kevin Durant was 9 of 16 from the floor and scored 25 points and Caris LeVert had 18 points as the Nets jumped out to a 62-44 halftime lead and didn’t look back. Jarrett Allen had nine points and 11 rebounds in the victory.

“Those guys are in a good position to start the season,” coach Steve Nash said of Durant and Irving. “Obviously it’s not ideal. But considering what we’ve been able to put together here in 18 days, couldn’t ask for much more.”

Jayson Tatum had 19 points and Jaylen Brown added 16 but the Celtics couldn’t get much of a contribution with from anyone else and continued to struggle without injured point guard Kemba Walker on the court.

HEAT 117, RAPTORS 105

In Tampa, Fla., the Raptors made their debut in their temporary home, but KZ Okpala scored 24 points and Max Strus added 22 as the Heat pulled away in the second half to win.

Okpala and Strus both made six 3’s for Miami. Precious Achiuwa scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for the Heat, while Bam Adebayo scored 13 points and Tyler Herro scored 10.

Miami played without Jimmy Butler, who sat out both Heat preseason games.

Kyle Lowry made his preseason debut and scored 25 points in 27 minutes for the Raptors. Pascal Siakam scored 14 and Chris Boucher had 11 for Toronto. A handful of fans were at the game, some waving Canadian flags in tribute.

The Raptors’ 2019 NBA championship banner was hanging from the rafters when they walked onto the floor of Amalie Arena.

76ERS 113, PACERS 107

At Indianapolis, the 76ers got 15 points and five assists from Shake Milton and defeated the Pacers without Joel Embiid. Ben Simmons chipped in with nine points and eight assists.

Furkah Korkmaz and Dwight Howard each added 14 points for Philadelphia.

Domantas Sabonis had 26 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes to lead to the Pacers. Malcolm Brogdon scored 21 points and Victor Oladipo added 20 for Indiana, which was limited to 37% percent shooting from the field.

KNICKS 119, CAVALIERS 83

In New York, Immanuel Quickley scored 22 points and Kevin Knox knocked down 6 of 7 3-pointers and finished with 20 points as the Knicks routed the Cavaliers.

New York shot 51.7% from 3-point range to run away early. Quickly and Reggie Bullock combined to hit 6 of 9 3-point attempts in the win.

The Cavaliers got 19 points from Cedi Osman but finished with 21 turnovers while shooting 39.1%.

BULLS 105, THUNDER 103

At Oklahoma City, Lauri Markkanen had 22 points and Zach LaVine added 20 and the Bulls outscored the Thunder 34-13 in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.

Al Horford led the Thunder with 17 points and Aleksej Pokusevski had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Oklahoma City.

The Bulls won despite shooting 26.8% from 3-point range.

PELICANS 127, BUCKS 113

At New Orleans, Kris Middleton made 9 of 16 shots and finished with 29 points, but the Bucks still lost to the Pelicans without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out with a sore back.

Zion Williamson was dominant with 31 points and nine rebounds for the Pelicans, creating even more anticipation for the start of his second NBA season. Lonzo Ball had 19 points and eight assists and Eric Bledsoe added 14 points to help lead the Pelicans to a strong outing in their final preseason game.

“It’s just tight, just a little bit of starting camp and getting in shape and all kind of the normal stuff,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo’s back. “I think we’re very hopeful it will resolve and not be any issue.”

NUGGETS 129, TRAIL BLAZERS 96

At Denver, the Nuggets got 24 points from Paul Millsap and 20 points and nine rebounds from Michael Porter Jr. in a rout of the Trail Blazers.

Millsap was 9 of 13 from the field and Nuggets had just nine turnovers. Bol Bol had a big game for Denver with 16 points and eight rebounds. Nikola Jokic scored 14 points and six rebounds in just 16 minutes of action in his final tuneup before the start of the regular season.

C.J. McCollum led the Blazers with 26 points on 8-of-20 shooting and Gary Trent Jr. added 18 points in the loss.

LAKERS 114, SUNS 113

At Phoenix, Anthony Davis scored 35 points, LeBron James added 20 and Los Angeles finished the preseason undefeated with a win over the Suns..

Davis shot 11 of 16 from the field, including 6 of 7 from 3-point range. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 15 points for the Lakers.

The Suns were winless in four preseason games. Devin Booker led Phoenix with 27 points.

The Suns jumped out to a 39-21 lead in the first quarter and led by as many 21 points during the first half. But the reigning NBA champs slowly cut into the deficit, pulling within 69-56 at halftime and 92-91 by the end of the third quarter when Davis hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

New Suns point guard Chris Paul, who was acquired in a trade with the Thunder last month, missed the game because of right ankle soreness.

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