Boston Celtics fans got a little taste of their own medicine Friday night.
It’s become something of a tradition for fans at TD Garden to loudly cheer for an impending free agent — who might consider joining the Celtics — comes to Boston as a visitor. Be it Gordon Hayward (paging Jae Crowder) or Anthony Davis, it’s become a somewhat common practice.
But with Kyrie Irving scaling back his intent to re-sign with the Celtics this summer mere hours before their tilt with the New York Knicks, the star point guard got quite a reception at Madison Square Garden. Of course, the Knicks for some time have been a rumored destination for Irving, and with New York trading Kristaps Porzingis on Thursday, they’ll have room for two max contracts this summer.
First, Knicks fans greeted Irving with a pretty hearty cheer when his name was called during the Celtics’ introductions. Then during the third quarter, things really ramped up, as more than just a few Knicks fans unleashed a “We want Kyrie” chant that echoed throughout the arena at times throughout the rest of the Celtics 113-99 win.
In his postgame interview on the court with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth, Irving was asked about the reception, and he was candid.
“At this point, it’s nothing but a distraction, honestly,” Irving told Hubbarth. “I appreciate the fans, appreciate the support, but it’s really about our team now and what we want to accomplish this season, and that’s a championship. So my focus is stuck on that. Obviously coming and playing at the Mecca is always a great opportunity for me, but I wanted to take advantage of that and have fun tonight with my teammates.”
Friday’s game was the last meeting between the Celtics and Knicks this season.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Celtics-Knicks game:
— Despite the distraction, Irving played pretty well.
The guard posted a double-double for the second straight game, dropping 23 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
— Hayward looked pretty comfortable Friday night, an encouraging step in his ongoing pursuit to regain his All-Star form.
The wing posted 14 points with three rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Two points were from throwing down this alley-oop off a lob from Terry Rozier.
“He played strong. He played physical. He played with force,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said about Hayward after the game, via the team’s official Twitter account.
— There was a brief scare for the Celtics in the third quarter, as Marcus Smart landed awkwardly after going up for a rebound, shouting in pain and grabbing at his leg. After laying on the floor for a moment, Smart got back up and continued playing the rest of the night without issue.
— Entering Friday, both the Celtics and Indiana Pacers had a record of 32-19. With the Celtics’ win over the Knicks and the Pacers idle, the Celtics jumped to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Pacers will play the Miami Heat on Saturday while the Celtics are off, so the two teams may again be even in a day’s time.
Either way, the Celtics currently trail the Philadelphia 76ers by just one game for third place in the East.