NEW YORK (AP) — Kyrie Irving returned to the lineup and scored 25 points while wearing a mask, and the Boston Celtics beat the Brooklyn Nets 109-102 on Tuesday night for their 13th straight victory.
The Celtics remained unbeaten since an 0-2 start heading into their showdown Thursday in Boston against the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Marcus Morris added 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Jayson Tatum scored 19 points for the Celtics.
Irving missed one game with a minor facial fracture after he was hit by teammate Aron Baynes on Friday. He fiddled with the mask frequently, but it didn’t seem to affect his play much. He made a jumper with 3:40 left after the Nets had closed within four points and drove for another basket about 35 seconds later.
Boston then finally put it away with Jaylen Brown’s alley-oop feed to Tatum before Irving hit two free throws to make it 106-96.
Joe Harris scored 19 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who are without leading scorer D’Angelo Russell because of a bruised left knee. Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert added 15 points apiece.
Irving has had to play in a mask before, and he’s done it well. He scored a then career-high 41 points in a loss at New York on Dec. 15, 2012 while with Cleveland.
The Celtics started 7 of 9 from the field to lead 17-4, but the Nets jumped ahead in the second quarter and countered every time Boston threated to pull away until the final minutes.
Celtics: Irving was not announced as a starter when lineups were introduced, even though coach Brad Stevens had said he would start, after an apparent mix-up between the coach and scorer’s table. … The Celtics have won six straight in Brooklyn, where they were cheered loudly and Irving even heard “MVP! MVP!” chants.
Nets: Brooklyn plays just four home games in November. Three are this week, and the Nets host Portland on Nov. 24 before going back on the road for three straight games. … Coach Kenny Atkinson didn’t put a timetable on Russell’s return, saying he was getting daily updates. … Rookie center Jarrett Allen returned after missing six games with a strained left foot.
Entertainers Diego Alfaro and Georgina Holguin from Mexico attended the game to help promote the Nets’ upcoming games in Mexico City to their home fans. Brooklyn will play Miami and Oklahoma City in December.
Celtics: Host Golden State on Thursday night.
Nets: Host Utah on Friday night.
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