Published: Wed, November 15, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Masked man: Irving returns as Celtics win 13th straight

Masked man: Irving returns as Celtics win 13th straight

"I'm really excited for this trip", said Kerr Tuesday following the team's final home practice. "So that's that. Just wearing a mask for precautionary reasons". It's nearly like having somewhat foggy blinders on.

"The way that they converted on us in transition after our mistakes tonight, you can't have that against Golden State".

Irving suffered a facial fracture when he was inadvertently elbowed by teammate Aron Baynes on Friday night. It'll mark the third time in his career that Irving will be required to play with a protective mask - he did it for two extended stints during his time with the Cavs - so it's not like this is uncharted waters for the 25-year-old, even if it's not the most comfortable thing in the world. "Hopefully, it'll get better in the next few weeks".

Irving repeatedly wrestled with the mask Tuesday, fidgeting with the straps at times while dribbling up the court and removing it completely during nearly every dead-ball situation. In fact, the Celtics allowing just 94 points per game. The Nets immediately hit back with a 9-2 run in the first 2:05 of the fourth to make it a one-point game, before four straight free throws from the two Marcuses - Morris and Smart.

After those hoops, Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum converted a nifty layup and took an alley-oop feed from Jaylen Brown for a dunk on a play started when Irving stole the ball from Trevor Booker.

The talk before Tuesday's game was all about "Masked Kyrie", but it was what the Celtics star did after the game that has everyone talking.

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"Great", Celtics center Al Horford said of Irving's return. "We just have to play really solid on both ends and do what we do as well as we can and see where we stand".

An inability to contain Irving down the stretch sent the Nets to a seventh loss in nine games since beating Cleveland on October 25.

"I thought guys competed", Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We didn't handle it". Boston is 1.5 games ahead of Detroit for the best record in the East.

Joe Harris scored 19 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who are without leading scorer D'Angelo Russell because of a bruised left knee.

That makes for an intriguing test against a Warriors team that leads the National Basketball Association in offense and averages 119.6 points a contest, shooting a gaudy league-best 52.0 percent overall and 41.3 from 3-point range.

NOTES: Brooklyn C Jarrett Allen returned after missing the last six games with a left foot strain. So I'm just like, 'Oh, basket.' Like, this is just the best-case scenario.

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