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Fan tosses water bottle at Kyrie Irving after Celtics’ game; later arrested and faces ban from TD Garden

Brooklyn's Tyler Johnson looks back toward Kyrie Irving (center) as a water bottle flies over the guard's head following Sunday night's Game 4 at TD Garden. A fan was detained by security and led out of the seating bowl in handcuffs by Boston Police following the incident.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

A fan at TD Garden was arrested Sunday night after throwing a water bottle at Nets star Kyrie Irving as he walked off the court after his team’s 141-126, Game 4 win over the Celtics.

The bottle missed Irving’s head, and Irving put his hand in the air after it soared past him. Nets guard Tyler Johnson then stopped and yelled something toward the fan before Irving turned around and stood with his teammate. Soon afterward, a fan in that area wearing a Kevin Garnett jersey was being detained by Boston police.

“We will support and provide assistance to Boston Police as this incident is under review,” TD Garden spokesperson Tricia McCorkle said in a statement. “We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden.”

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Irving scored 39 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his team’s win. Games 3 and 4 of this series were his first in front of fans in Boston since leaving the team as a free agent after the 2018-19 season.

Last Tuesday, Irving was asked how he expected the crowd to react to him. He said he hoped the focus remained on basketball, and that there was no racism or subtle racism in the words or actions directed at him.

Irving was booed whenever he touched the ball the last two games, and there were some expletive-laced chants, too. It appeared nothing had gone beyond that until the plastic bottle zipped past his head.

“It’s been that way in history in terms of entertainment and performers in sports for a long period of time, and just underlying racism and just treating people like they’re in a human zoo, throwing stuff at people, saying things,” Irving said after Sunday’s game. “There’s a certain point where it gets to be too much.”

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Irving said he has played in hostile environments throughout his basketball career and has become accustomed to them, but he reiterated that sometimes lines are crossed.

“The things that they’re saying are not necessarily about talent or gifts,” he said. “It’s just more or less about moms, or what you look like, or they’re calling you out of your name . . . It doesn’t make you feel good.”

A fan wearing a Kevin Garnett jersey was detained by security and eventually handcuffed and led out of the seating bowl by Boston police officers. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

This was the latest in a string of incidents over the past week involving fan misbehavior. On Wednesday, a 76ers fan dropped popcorn on the head of Wizards star Russell Westbrook as he walked off the court in Philadelphia after suffering an injury in Game 2 of that series, and a Knicks fan spit on Hawks star Trae Young during Game 2 of that series at Madison Square Garden.

Later that night, three fans at the Jazz’s home playoff game were involved in a verbal altercation involving members of Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant’s family. All the fans involved in these three incidents have been banned from their home arenas indefinitely.

“You can see that people feel very entitled out here,” Irving said.

Irving struggled in Game 3 as the limited crowd of about 5,000 showered him with boos and chants. He made just 6 of 17 shots and his team lost.

But he bounced back with a vengeance on Sunday night, carving through Boston’s defense and mostly doing as he pleased. And if there were any questions about whether this win and performance meant more to Irving than the others, they appeared to be answered when he walked to midcourt after the final buzzer and stomped his foot on the leprechaun’s face in the Celtics logo.

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Moments later, the water bottle soared toward him.

“As a black man playing in the NBA, dealing with a lot of this stuff is fairly difficult, because you never know when it could happen, or what’s going to happen,” Irving said.

He added: “I just want to move on from this. I’ve dealt with it as a player here, as a Celtic, and now being an opponent again. I just want to move on.”

The Celtics welcomed more than 17,000 fans to Sunday’s game, their largest crowd since the NBA was shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The crowd was amped and eager and provided a boost at the start. But Celtics players Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart sounded disappointed that their long-awaited return would now be pockmarked.

“I don’t want that to overshadow the rest of the fans that came and supported us tonight,” Tatum said. “I was extremely happy to see that. But obviously there’s no place in the NBA for throwing bottles, for throwing anything at a player. I’m sure they will handle that right away, but there’s no place for that in the NBA.”

Added Smart: “Our fans have been great. We just had a knucklehead do something knucklehead-ish and it got taken care of, and we’re happy for that.”

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Nets star Kevin Durant, meanwhile, had a more searing reaction. He said he understood that people have been stressed and on edge due to the pandemic, but that it was no excuse for some of the recent fan behavior around the league.

“We’re not animals,” he said. “We’re not in a circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. So have some respect for the game, have respect for these human beings, and have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at players, or spitting at players or tossing popcorn, so grow the [expletive] up and enjoy the game. It’s bigger than you.”

Kevin Durant gets two of his 42 points on the night.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Celtics made a strong push to sign Durant in the summer of 2017 before he ultimately agreed to a deal with the Warriors. He and Irving then joined forces in Brooklyn two years ago. Durant said that Irving wasn’t worried about how the crowd would affect him this weekend. He just wanted to bounce back from an off night on Friday, and he did that.

“We know how these people here are in Boston,” Durant said. “And we know how passionate they are about Kyrie in particular, and they’re still upset at him. That’s no reason for them to act childish. But we don’t need to speak on that. We know what it is already coming in here. Glad we got the W. Hopefully, we don’t got to come back here this year.”

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The Nets will have a chance to end Boston’s season with a win in Game 5 in Brooklyn on Tuesday night.


Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him @adamhimmelsbach.