The Celtics defeated the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, 121-110, in what was supposed to be Kyrie Irving’s first game in Boston since leaving the team to sign with Brooklyn.
Irving missed the game with a shoulder injury and was not in the building, but that did not stop fans from filling the night with chants directed at him.
The good news for the Celtics is that the sting from Irving’s departure was lessened by the arrival of another All-Star point guard, Kemba Walker. And Walker was quick to remind everyone of that, as he poured in a season-high 39 points. He received a standing ovation when he checked out with 1:15 left.
Jaylen Brown added 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who trailed by six points at halftime before outscoring Brooklyn, 64-47, after the break. The Nets lost despite making 21 3-pointers.
Observations from the game:
■ Walker received by far his biggest starting lineup ovation of the season before this game. It was probably partly a way to welcome him back after he missed a game following his scary fall last Friday, and partly the crowd’s way of saying ‘We’re don’t need Kyrie; we have you.”
■ The crowd was juiced at the start. The pregame hype video is pretty loud, and it was briefly drowned out by an arena-wide “Kyrie sucks” chant, which isn’t an easy thing to do. There were a few other loud chants in the first quarter, such as “Where is Kyrie?” But as the first half rolled on and the Nets drilled one 3-pointer after another, those mostly faded.
■ Daniel Theis had an instant impact after missing Monday’s game against the Kings with an illness. Just six minutes into the game, he had 8 points on 4 of 5 shooting, along with 3 rebounds. He finished with 14 and 8.
■ The Celtics led by as many as 9 early in the second quarter, but had no answer for the Nets’ scorching 3-point shooting in the remainder of the half. After going 2 for 11 from beyond the arc in the opening period, Brooklyn made 10 of 16 in the second, including four by Garrett Temple.
■ With 4:38 left in the second quarter, Walker swirled through the lane and completed an incredibly difficult spinning layup before falling to the ground. It was an impressive play on its own, but even more so considering he was immobilized on a stretcher days ago.
■ Also in the second quarter, Walker was fouled as he heaved up a 3-pointer that went in, but the referee ruled that the foul had occurred on the floor. Stevens looked to the bench and briefly considered challenging the call, but he didn’t. He said earlier this week that his failed challenges have shown him he must be “150 percent” sure before making the call.
■ Stevens used the challenge after Semi Ojeleye was called for a blocking foul with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter, and he won it.
■ Jayson Tatum continues to scuffle on offense. In addition to his 5 for 17 night, several of the misses came on either wide open shots, or others that were not even close to going in.
■ Theis basically forced back-to-back shot-clock violations guarding Dinwiddie late in the third quarter. On the first, he stayed with him on the drive and swatted his shot attempt out of bounds as time expired. On the next possession, Dinwiddie seemed to want some revenge, as he sized up Theis at the top of the key. But Theis did well to stay in front of him, forcing a pass that led to another violation.
■ I didn’t do a full scan of the arena, but I saw a few clever Irving-related shirts. Two guys in the section next to the media wore Irving T-shirts and used masking tape to spell “where is” above his name, and then taped question marks below it. Another fan went with a more direct “Kyrie lies” shirt.
■ There were widely circulated photos of Irving posters with the word “coward” printed in red outside TD Garden prior to Wednesday’s game. They were put there by a social media-related company looking for some attention and Instagram followers.