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DALLAS – Kyrie Irving walked off the American Airlines Center court Monday night with his mask removed and his head tucked through the neck of his jersey. His No. 11 draped off of his back like a cape as he glided toward the locker room.
It was only fitting for a guy who looked like a superhero while scoring 47 points during Boston’s 110-102, come-from-behind, overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
“It was like watching a video game,” explained rookie Jayson Tatum, as he shook his head in disbelief.
But really, can video game-Kyrie actually shoot 16-for-22 from the field and score 47 points during an overtime game to extend a winning streak to 16 games?
We think not.
On this night, a man who walks among us showcased skills that not even video-game characters possess. Superpowers were on display.
Irving dribbled circles around athletic Mavs defenders, making them look as if they were stationary obstacles, all while the ball appeared to be attached to his hand like an inseparable object that belonged to him and only him.
He shot the ball as if he had laser vision attached to his mask, vision that could lock onto the center of the basket before triggering a direct hit on the target. Truly, a miss was more surprising than a make.
He was, as Brad Stevens described, “unbelievable.”
No, no. Check the tape. Believe it. Irving did those things Monday night, things that human beings aren’t supposed to be able to do.
How did the masked man reach such heights?
“I guess the best answer for that is,” he answered, “I was just called upon.”
The Celtics surely shined his signal into the air, and he answered the call – particularly during crunch time, when Irving was nothing short of miraculous.
Yes, Irving opened the game with a 9-for-9 shooting performance that accounted for 18 of Boston’s 34 points during the first quarter. It was his clutch play, however, that kept the Celtics streaking in the record books.
Irving checked into the fourth quarter with 9:19 remaining on the clock, with Boston trailing by 11. He scored or assisted on 13 of the team’s 24 points over the remainder of the quarter, including five points in a span of 27 seconds that pulled Boston to within one, at 92-91, with 2:31 left in regulation.
Jayson Tatum sent the game to overtime with his alley-oop layup, which fittingly arrived off of a pass from Irving.
Once the C’s forced overtime, it was a wrap.
Irving was, as he said, called upon.
The superhero point guard made it look easy as he scored 10 points during the extra five minutes, including six straight Celtics points over a 56-second span that tied the game up at 102-102.
His overtime numbers looked like this: 10 points, 4-for-4 shooting, one assist, zero turnovers.
Dallas’ overtime numbers, as a team, looked like this: six points, 2-for-11 shooting, zero assists, zero turnovers.
What type of human can outperform an entire team? One who is named Kyrie Irving, and one who feels not a hint of pressure when the game is on the line.
“It’s just fun basketball,” he said. “It’s like being in the park and it’s 7-7 and the game is to eight, and someone else calls win by two, and you call it straight-up. That’s when the defense starts to crank up and you see some unbelievable plays.
“I don’t want to say the NBA is like playing at the park, but for me, I kind of just see it as that fun basketball.”
Irving has never had more fun playing basketball than he is right now. Yes, he has won a title, which is the ultimate goal, but here in Boston, he and the Celtics are soaring above the rest of the league like superheroes that were born out of nowhere.
No one can stop them.
With his mask off, and his No. 11 cape on, Irving was asked how this W felt. He quickly answered, with a big smile on his face, “Pretty good, man,” as he continued to the locker room to celebrate.
It’s hard to argue with the man.
That’s 16 in a row for the Celtics, and this one may have been the sweetest of them all.
The Celtics have had many great players in their storied history, but Monday night in Dallas, they learned that they now have a superhero on their side.