BOSTON – It’s not often that Kyrie Irving gets to play in front of his extended family. In fact, many of his aunts, uncles and close friends hadn’t seen him play live since he was a kid growing up in New Jersey.
This holiday season, however, the Irvings were all able to reunite under one roof – that of TD Garden – to proudly watch Kyrie do his thing. He was sure to make it a family reunion to remember.
Irving lit up the Garden on Christmas Day with his first career 40-point, 10-rebound performance, leading the Boston Celtics to a cheerful, 121-114, overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was a performance that all of his teammates saw coming.
“I came into the locker room and said my family is here to watch me play,” Irving told the media after the game. “I told my teammates, ‘I’ve got like 20-plus people from my family here, so I’m acting up. Like you guys have no idea, I’m so excited.’
“I never really have a chance to have my family all in one place, or most of my family, for that matter. So, it means a lot to me.”
It was the second straight game of which Irving had his family in attendance, after hosting them at TD Garden for Sunday night’s 119-103 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Irving went off in that contest as well, scoring 17 of his game-high 25 points during the first quarter alone.
“I was like, ‘Man, it doesn’t even matter what the Hornets or Sixers do; I’m here to play for my family and my teammates,’” said Irving. “It’s just the Christmas spirit.”
The Christmas spirit brought out the best in Irving down the stretch Tuesday night, as he hit clutch basket after clutch basket to help the Celtics hold off Philly.
Irving’s biggest bucket of the game came on Boston’s final possession of regulation. The C’s were trailing 108-106 with less than 30 seconds remaining, when he squared off with defensive stalwart Jimmy Butler. Starting beyond the 3-point arc, Irving danced with Butler all the way into the paint, where he stepped back under the mistletoe of the Garden rafters and kissed the ball softly off the rim and through the net.
“That’s what he does,” Butler said of Irving’s clutch shot. “That’s why he’s the player he is. He came up late, and what can you do about that?”
Not a whole lot, Jimmy. Not a whole lot.
By making that shot, Irving was forced to work a little holiday overtime. But that’s what his family came to see, right? So, in the extra period, he made sure to give them something to celebrate about.
The 76ers got off to a hot start in overtime, scoring the first five points of the period. They still led by two points with a little more than two minutes remaining, but that was when it was time for Irving to get back to work.
Boston’s All-Star point guard canned back-to-back 3-pointers over a span of 32 seconds, giving Boston a quick, six-point swing to put them ahead, 118-114. It also gave the C’s all of the momentum they would need, as they didn’t allow Philly to score again for the rest of the night.
Coming through in that manner, with his family watching on in pride, was the greatest gift Irving could have received.
“My sacrifice, not being around my family as much, not having the time to be invested with them,” he said. “I’m glad I had this time, this moment for Christmas to spend it with them.”
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