John Tomase

The exact moment Kyrie proved Boston fans are still in his head

Irving's comments about the TD Garden crowd in Game 1 were telling.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Kyrie Irving took the podium with a basketball under his arm and a smile plastered to his face like one Eleanor Rigby might keep in a jar by the door. And then he gave away the game.

It turns out the "new" Irving really was just a Stepford construct designed to show the world how much he has grown and matured on his individual journey through the blah blah blah. The real Irving revealed himself by doing what he does reliably well in Boston, which is lose, but it's what he said after that proved how much the city still rattles him.

The other half of the Greatest Backcourt in NBA History Even Though They Don't Play Defense and Haven't Won Anything didn't remotely resemble a force in Thursday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He finished with 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting and missed two of the most open 3-pointers he'll ever see during Dallas' aborted comeback from a 29-point deficit.

He then answered questions with the aforementioned perma-smile, dismissing any notions of a hostile environment as something that he's "used to at this point," before inadvertently revealing exactly where his head was at entering the game.

"I thought it was going to be a little louder in here," he said. "But I'm expecting the same things going into Game 2, the crowd trying to get me out of my element, my teammates out of my element. But again, the energy's got to be focused towards the game."

Irving thought it would be louder because he wasted energy obsessing over what kind of reception he'd receive before being relieved it wasn't as personally punishing as expected. When he says he thought it would be louder, he's not talking about TD Garden overall – it was absolutely rocking – but the vitriol directed specifically at him. And on this front, Celtics fans proved refreshingly restrained.

They booed him and started a couple of perfunctory, "Kyrie sucks!" chants, but for the most part, had their eyes on a bigger prize. There wasn't a single F-U chant all night, which was a relief.

"I thought it was going to be a little louder in here," lets us know that Irving spent a lot more time thinking about you than you did about him. He has now lost 11 straight games vs. the Celtics since Boston swept its first round series vs. Brooklyn in 2022, and based on how he and the Mavs played in Game 1, it wouldn't be a shock if that number reaches 14 next week.

Besides some trademark ball-handling wizardry, like when he evaporated along the baseline against Al Horford, Irving was a non-factor. The Celtics smoked him on defense, especially on Jaylen Brown's poster dunk, which started with a blow-by of Luka Dončić and ended with a right-handed jackhammer on Daniel Gafford while Irving offered pretend resistance.

It was that kind of night for the former Celtics guard, whose performance, demeanor, and commentary made a surprisingly fact startlingly clear: Celtics fans desperate to raise Banner 18 have moved on, but it's Irving who can't let go.

Contact Us