Kyrie Irving will finally be able to represent the Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs this weekend.
So many people who bleed green and white have been waiting for this moment for nearly 20 months, but none more so than Irving himself.
Irving required surgery on his left knee last March that forced him out of the remainder of Boston’s 2017-18 season. Prior to his injury, the team had opened the season with a 46-20 record and was viewed by many to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. His injury pushed him to the sideline and removed the possibility of him playing in the Finals for the fourth time in his career.
Irving has now been a member of the Celtics for nearly 20 months, and he hasn’t participated in an NBA Playoff game since Game 5 of the NBA Finals on May 25, 2017. He’s anxious to taste the postseason again when Game 1 tips off this weekend against the Indiana Pacers, and to push for a run back to the world’s top basketball stage.
“I missed it a lot,” he said of the postseason, following Wednesday’s first practice session for Boston’s upcoming series. “It’s just the highest level of basketball. I’ve been training and being a professional, I would say, since I was 16 years old, just dedicating myself to the game, sacrificing a lot of my time with my family and friends to be able to have a chance to have a shot at the gold trophy.”
Boston has been dedicating much of its collective energy toward watching Kyrie and the Celtics chase that trophy. The team’s fan base got an opportunity to watch that chase last season while Irving and Gordon Hayward were sidelined with injuries, but this postseason run has a bit more juice to it with those All-Star level players added back into the fold.
Irving’s play, in particular, must have everyone in Celtics Nation giddy.
He is, after all, the player who connected on arguably the most clutch shot in the history of basketball: his game-winning 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals that took down the 73-win Warriors.
He is, after all, the player who gave the Celtics nightmares after his performances in both the 2015 and 2017 postseasons. He averaged 23.3 points per game during a 2015 sweep of the C’s, and 25.8 PPG during a 2017 series that included a couple of series-swinging performances – ones Brad Stevens remembers with despair.
“The stretch I remember most was (in 2017) we found a way to win Game 3 in Cleveland, and we’re up 16 in Game 4, I think in the second quarter… he starts feeling it in the second quarter and his third quarter was just insane,” Stevens said, referencing Irving’s 21-point performance during the third, 19 of which were scored during the final 4:48. “And then he took any hope of us coming back at the start of the third quarter at home in Game 5.”
That’s the type of dominant offense the Celtics have been craving to have on their side during the postseason since they acquired Irving back in August of 2017. Now, they finally have it.
“I just think he’s got the ability to go on those runs and make tough shots,” Stevens added. “Inevitably in the Playoffs, it becomes very important to be able to make a play that isn’t there. We have a great deal of faith and trust in him.”
More importantly, Irving has a great deal of faith and trust in himself. That’s because he’s been there, and he’s done that. Not yet with the Celtics , but after 20 long months of waiting, that fact soon will change.
It’s finally time for Playoff Kyrie to make his debut in green and white.