BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
It’s a sight to behold when he has the basketball. He makes it so easy when he shoots. His defense gets overlooked. No one can teach what he does. In fact, he almost willed the Nets to a Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics by scoring game-high 39 points. It’s easy to understand why Kevin Durant and the Nets are more than happy to tolerate his nonsense.
Yes, his nonsense part. It’s always an issue with him that makes him unlikeable. It’s one thing or another with him. He has no one to blame but himself when people talk about his behavior than his game. Instead of celebrating his game, we spend more time talking about his stupidity. He brings that on himself. He has done plenty of this with the Nets whether it’s not playing through an injury in his first season or taking a sabbatical last season or him not being vaccinated this season.
Irving decided to give the one-finger salute forward and two one-finger salutes backward to Celtics fans heckling him all game. Then in the press conference, he double-downed on his behavior by saying he plans to do it again because it’s the playoffs and he feeds off that emotion.
So much for killing them with kindness.
He talks about how he wants to talk basketball, but his actions tell otherwise.
The five Nets fans were entertained. Maybe Durant enjoyed it. No question Irving loved it. But in the end, the Celtics fans got the last laugh since they saw their team seize a 115-114 victory on a Jayson Tatum layup that was choreographed so well on Jaylen Brown’s pass to Marcus Smart, who handed it to Tatum to easily beeline his way to make a layup. By the way, it was comical seeing Irving standing around and doing nothing in this sequence.
The Nets point guard has to realize he emboldened Celtics fans to continue to get at him by saying he would go after them again.
This is not what he and the Nets need. The last thing they both need is the Celtics to be even more confident than they already are.
The Celtics are not scared of Durant, Irving and the Nets. When they have a generational talent in Tatum, it’s easy to feel confident rather than hoping for a win. In Game 1, they had no problem breaking ankles and scoring baskets. They made it easy in getting a timely basket for every run the Nets made. This is a different team than last year.
It may not guarantee them anything when it comes to winning this series, but confidence can be a beautiful thing. This playoff series is night and day compared to last year. There won’t be a gentleman’s sweep this year. This is going to be a seven-game series in the making. Even if the Nets managed to win it, they are going to come out being bloodied and tired from this grueling series. It won’t end up well for them in the next round.
Irving’s behavior does the Nets no favors. The Celtics feed off from the crowd as it is. They are already confident as it is. Why make it even worse for the Nets? This could get uglier as the series goes on. Does he want another Malice at the Palace?
If he reacts to Celtics fans heckling him, what if he goes fight in the stands out of the blue later in the series? There’s no telling what this troubled point guard can do. Is he really risking being suspended just to be stupid?
Oh, does he realize he now emboldened opposing crowds to do the exact same thing? With the Nets being the seventh seed, they are on the road for the rest of the playoff rounds if they advance. There’s no question Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Francisco will get much rowdier for Irving to handle. He and the Nets don’t really need this despite what they say.
Irving played well and it benefited him. But the drawback is it feeds off the home team. In the NBA, the home crowd benefits more from a rowdier crowd with the energy it feeds. That’s why this is a disadvantage for the Nets.
This series could be as interesting as the Minnesota Timberwolves/Memphis Grizzlies first-round series. Everyone will be curious to see what else the Celtics can do. We all can’t wait to see Irving snap, especially the Celtics fans.
Sunday raised the stakes for everyone involved.
Irving no doubt put the bullseye target on him and the Nets with his antics during the game and after the game.
He better hope for his sake that it benefits the Nets this series and beyond or else he could be looking for another team who can tolerate his nonsense next season when he is a free agent.
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