As an NBA champion and three-time Finalist, Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving has ample experience on the brightest stage professional basketball has to offer.
And yet here he was in mid-November, five months before the playoffs even begin, licking his chops over a regular-season matchup.
For good reason: The Raptors were bringing their NBA-best 12-3 record to Boston for a potential -- if ridiculously early -- preview of the Eastern Conference finals.
"I'm excited for that game," Irving said before Friday's game. "Obviously one game at a time, but that's just a competitor's dream to be going against the best of the best."
As he's done so many times over the years, Irving rose to the occasion with one of the best games of his career, piling up season-highs of 43 points and 11 assists in a thrilling 123-116, overtime victory. Per Elias Sports, Irving is the first Celtic with 40-plus points and 10-plus assists since Antoine Walker in 2001, and third overall. (Trivia question: What other Boston great did it? Answer below.)
Anchored by Irving's ridiculous efficiency -- the five-time All-Star hit 18 of 26 shots with just three turnovers -- the Celtics overcame some mid-game stumbles to finish the game on a 20-9 run.
It wasn't quite a full turnaround for a team that entered with the NBA's seventh-worst offensive rating. But with Jayson Tatum chipping in 21 points and Gordon Hayward hitting a handful of key free throws/shots down the stretch, the Celtics at least looked closer to the contender most expected them to be than the 8-6 mediocrity that entered the game.
"It's just great (for us) to see the growth," said Irving, a reference to last month's 12-point loss to the Raptors. "To have a great Friday night game, going against the Toronto Raptors ... awesome."
Given how aggressively he forced his way out of Minnesota, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that Jimmy Butler isn't about to go quietly into the night with his new team.
Playing in his first home game with the 76ers, Butler poured in 28 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, with seven assists as they held off the Jazz 113-107.
Then came his postgame interview, in which he ... well, just listen for yourself.
Not that the Timberwolves are likely to feel too aggrieved by Butler's pot shot. They drilled the Blazers by 16 for their third straight victory since shipping him out.
It took a full half for the Bucks to realize they had a game Friday.
Once they did, the results couldn't have been much more impressive.
Down 22 late in the second quarter and 18 at the break, the Bucks sprung to life with a monstrous 46-point third quarter, ultimately outscoring the Bulls by 37 in the second half en route to a 123-104 rout.
According to ESPN's Kevin Pelton, the Bucks narrowly missed breaking the record for largest margin of victory after trailing by at least 18 points at the half.
Their second-half shot chart was a masterpiece of modern basketball philosophy, with only two of their 27 buckets coming outside the paint or inside the 3-point line.
And perhaps best part of all: The Bucks didn't need Giannis Antetokounmpo to be ridiculously great to fuel the comeback. He was instead merely regular great (23 points, 13 rebounds, four assists) as Eric Bledsoe scored 25, Khris Middleton added 23 and the Bucks knocked down 18 3-pointers with 28 assists.
"We knew we weren't playing hard enough," Antetokounmpo said. "(Coach Mike Budenholzer) was mad. He was really upset. We don't have to have that type of half for us to pick it up. From the first minutes of the game, we have to set the tone."
Said Budenholzer, "A lot of credit to the guys for getting it together and playing the way we want to play."
It's only the first quarter but Mitchell Robinson's athleticism is matching up nicely with Anthony Davis#Knicks— NYK-NYJ-NYY-4LIFE (@knicksjets4life) November 17, 2018
Mitchell Robinson when he sees Anthony Davis in the paint pic.twitter.com/6p60CbJ2pn— Ladi Alao (@HigashiNY) November 17, 2018
Such enthusiasm wasn't out of order after Davis managed a paltry two points in the first quarter at Smoothie King Center, at which point the Knicks led by 16.
But unfortunately for Robinson and his teammates, NBA games are four quarters long.
By the time they'd elapsed, the Knicks were limping out of New Orleans in the face of a truly dominant performance from Davis, who recovered from his poor start to amass a season-high 43 points, 17 rebounds and five assists in a 129-124 victory.
Enes Kanter summed up the onslaught as such:
.......— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) November 17, 2018
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also put up an impressive line, but of an entirely different variety.
In chucking up 35 shots without a single assist, he became the first player to reach those thresholds since Carmelo Anthony in 2014, and just the fourth since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77.
And unlike Anthony, who finished with a career-high 62 points, Mitchell converted only 13 shots en route to a relatively paltry 31.
Full credit to Mitchell, though, as he at least owned up to the horror show: "I took 35 shots. That can't happen. Zero assists. It's not who I am, it's not who I've been. That can't happen."
The evolution of Markelle Fultz's shooting stroke continues, and it's ... something.
Markelle Fultz free throws are never boring pic.twitter.com/reXHdFLDVC— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) November 17, 2018
Little J.T. Holiday helps her dad warm up for Friday's game:
Answer: Larry Bird, who first did it in 1986, and five additional times after that.