Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
From now on, the mask might have to stay off for Kyrie Irving.
After managing five points through the first three quarters Thursday night with the protective gear on, Irving ditched the plastic shell guarding his minor facial fracture and erupted for 11 points in the final frame to hand the Boston Celtics a 92-88 win over the Golden State Warriors at TD Garden for their 14th straight victory.
And while it wasn’t an efficient outing for Irving, who shot 4-of-16 from the field, he was determined to attack the rim late in an effort to get to the free-throw line.
That strategy worked, as Irving scored seven of his 11 fourth-quarter points from the charity stripe, including a pair of go-ahead free-throws with 14 seconds left following what Warriors head coach Steve Kerr thought was a questionable call on Draymond Green.
“I just watched the tape,” Kerr said after the loss, per ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes. “There was no foul. Tough call.”
However, Golden State won’t be able to pin the loss on the officials.
The Warriors—who entered the clash with a league-leading offensive rating of 116.2—shot 40.2 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson (13 points) and Green (11 points) all stumbled their way to forgettable nights.
Curry was especially off after sitting out Monday night’s win over the Orlando Magic with a thigh contusion and finished with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-9 from three, as ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and the Boston Globe‘s Adam Himmelsbach observed:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
Not sure if it’s the injury or not, but Steph looks terrible tonight. Can’t buy a bucket.
Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach
Seems like Steph Curry has been in a daze this whole game.
Dating back to Nov. 6, Curry has shot 32.8 percent (20-of-61) from the field over his last four games.
Although the Celtics threw their full complement of disruptive wing defenders his way, Durant poured in a game-high 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting to help provide some steadiness.
“I do think we guarded them hard, and at least maybe that has a cumulative effect,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said, according to Himmelsbach.
The Warriors looked particularly overwhelmed in the third quarter, when the Celtics’ swarming defense was so sharp that it helped anchor a 19-0 run to erase a 17-point deficit and briefly take a two-point lead.
That outburst was aided by a superlative two-way display from Jaylen Brown, who finished with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-18 shooting, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks while playing with a heavy heart, according to Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach:
Ben Rohrbach @brohrbach
Jaylen Brown extremely emotional entering the media scrum. “My best friend died last night,” he starts. Said his friend’s mom convinced him to play.
Brown was also the only Celtics starter who finished as a net positive (plus-eight) in the plus/minus column.
“He was special tonight,” Stevens said, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg. “He played really inspired.”
With a signature victory in the bag, Brown and the Celtics will look to extend their winning streak to 15 games Saturday night when they square off against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
The Warriors will also be back in action Saturday as they head south for a showdown with the Philadelphia 76ers in the City of Brotherly Love.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com.