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Kyrie Irving returns to Boston as Nets and Celtics hoop on Christmas

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Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Hey man. With the eyes of the basketball world in Brooklyn, the Nets began their new era in earnest with a dominant win against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. The fans are excited, the team is excited, and the rest of the league is on early notice. It’s a whole new world.

The opponent tonight will be the Boston Celtics. The C’s are hoping to keep up their continued regular season success and have that final breakthrough in the Conference Finals come playoff time. They got off to a good start with a wild win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

Where to follow the game

ABC on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. It’s a Christmas Day hoops extravaganza so we’ll be getting started after 5 PM.

Injuries

Only Nicolas Claxton is out for Brooklyn.

Tacko Fall, Romeo Langford, and Kemba Walker are out for Boston.

The game

Tonight will begin a tough stretch for the Nets. When they get out of here, they head to Charlotte for a back-to-back, first against the Hornets and then back home for the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. Throughout the offseason and preseason, we heard discussion about how Steve Nash would juggle his roster. We’ll see what he comes up with over the next week.

Apparently, James Harden has the C’s on his list of preferred teams should the Houston Rockets actually trade the former MVP. We spent the fall discussing Harden rumors on our side, so welcome to the club, Boston!

Y’all wanna reminisce about the last time the Nets were on the Christmas schedule? Nah? Well alright...

The two guard matchup will be a fun one. Spencer Dinwiddie will get the start once again, and his ability to score off the dribble and get his own shot will take some pressure off 7/11. When he hits the bench, Caris Levert will take over and presents another wrinkle for Brooklyn. As the player leading the second unit, he has a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders and as he plays well and keeps things steady, it allows for Nash to comfortably rest his starters. Call him a third star, super sub, whatever, as long as he’s on the court, the Nets will always have a solid to excellent shot maker and creator to turn to.

It feels like Jaylen Brown has been around for ages, but he’s still only 24 years old. The potential All Star has been a leader on and off the court, and this quote he gave to Michael Pina in GQ really stood out to me:

“I think part of being an athlete comes with the fact that you have influence, you have responsibility, and you have a platform, and a lot of times people make it seem like it’s okay to run away from that. And I would challenge that,. I’m not saying everybody has to live their life squeaky-clean, to not make any mistakes, because that’s not realistic. I’m not telling you to be perfect, but just do more than not give a fuck. That’s all I’m saying.”

Back on the court, Brown’s combination of length, skill, and versatility makes Boston one of the trickier teams to game plan against in the league.

Players to watch: Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving

Amazingly, this wasn’t the wildest game winner on Wednesday night

Now that Tatum is the man in town, everything runs through him. He’s gotten better each season he’s been in the league and has managed to put together incredibly special moments for Boston fans. While I don’t think it’s a Finals or bust season for Brad Stevens’ guys, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on JT to push Boston into the Finals.

He’ll have his hands full with Kevin Durant tonight. Whatever percentage he’s at, KD looked pretty dang great on Tuesday night against his former teammates. Even forgetting the 22 points, KD looked explosive, agile, and got everything he wanted within the flow of the offense. Perhaps the thing that most impressed me was him contesting shots at the rim without any fear or hesitancy. We have a lot of questions about Brooklyn’s defensive capabilities this season, and if Durant is able to help anchor the interior, a world of possibilities will open for Brooklyn.

All eyes will be on Tatum’s former running mate, Kyrie Irving. Honestly, his two seasons in Boston were pretty good. However, it ended DISASTROUSLY against the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2019 playoffs and when you combine that with everything that went on with the Celtics that season, it made Irving’s eventual exit all the more acrimonious. The Celtics players still have plenty of love for Irving, However the same can’t be said for Celtics fans. With COVID keeping spectators away for the foreseeable future, it’ll probably be a long time before C’s fans get to cuss at Kyrie in an arena. In the meantime, there are always his Instagram comments I suppose.

Focusing back on Irving’s current team, we see that he’s taking on that leadership role and will be counted on to help guide the roster into championship contention. He’s one of the most engaging, entertaining ballhandlers we’ve ever seen in basketball, and his creativity makes him a matchup nightmare for just about every guard in the sport.

Luckily for Boston, Marcus Smart is one of the best defensive guards in the league and he’ll be the one tussling with Irving for much of the night. Smart and free agent acquisition Jeff Teague will split PG duties for Boston, and Teague’s ability to facilitate on offense will do wonders for what looks like a shaky Celtics bench. Assuming Walker makes it back and is healthy this season, a current weakness for Boston could turn into a strength.

From the Vault

Let Isaac Hayes bring us into Christmas

And while we’re here, let’s revisit Kyrie’s better days in Boston

More reading: Celtics Blog