BOSTON (CBS) — Kyrie Irving has a knack for playing his best basketball in the postseason. They don’t call him “Playoff Kyrie” for nothing.
But on Tuesday night, he was not “Playoff Kyrie.” Irving’s performance in Boston’s 123-102 Game 2 loss in Milwaukee was more like “Preseason Kyrie,” as the guard had one of his worst playoff performances ever.
Boston’s star player had just nine points in his 31 minutes on the floor, Irving’s second-lowest point total in his 58 career playoff games. His worst postseason game came back in 2015 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, when he scored just six points in a series-clinching win over the Chicago Bulls. At least in that game, Irving only played 12 minutes.
Simply put, Irving did not have his shot Tuesday night. He went just 4-for-18 from the floor for his third-worst shooting performance on his otherwise incredible postseason resume. His floater wasn’t going. His wizard-like drives to the basket didn’t result in two points like they usually do. And he had very little success with his long-range strikes.
Irving missed his first seven attempts from the floor, including an 0-for-6 first quarter, before finally breaking the seal at the 6:22 mark of the second. There was hope that his shot was fixed when Irving drained a deep three from Sheboygan at the 4:28 mark, but that was not the case. It was his only make from long distance on the night, as he went 1-for-5 from downtown in the loss.
It was probably a telling sign when Irving’s first shot of the evening, a layup attempt on an alley oop feed from Al Horford, was emphatically sent back by Eric Bledsoe.
As is the case with just about any star player in the world of sports, Irving is prone to bad nights. We’re just not used to seeing them come in the postseason. Irving took the blame for his decision making after the defeat, and then turned his focus toward Game 3 at TD Garden on Friday night. The Celtics stole home court advantage from the top-seeded Bucks with their blowout win in Game 1, and Irving is looking forward to putting on a “Playoff Kyrie” performance when the series shifts to Boston.
“This is what I signed up for. This is what Boston traded for me for. Being able to go back in the trenches, get ready for another battle on Friday,” Irving said when asked about carry an extra burden after Tuesday’s lopsided loss. “This is what you live for. Basketball is fun when it comes like this, when you have to respond. This is the type of basketball you want to be playing this time of year.”
Irving will look to respond in the same way Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo did on Tuesday. After being limited to a relatively ineffective 22 points on 7-for-21 shooting in Game 1, Giannis bounced back with 29 points on 7-for-16 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and four assists in Game 2.
Antetokounmpo quickly put his poor performance in the rear-view mirror and had a monster game on Tuesday. There’s a good chance we’ll see the same out of Irving on Friday night.