Celtics, Cavs have one thing in common, but not much else
For at least one day, the drama surrounding Boston point guard Kyrie Irving was limited to his play on the court.
In Sunday's win against Oklahoma City, Irving recorded 30 points and 11 assists. He scored or assisted on Boston's final six field goals in a 134-129 victory involving two of the best defensive teams in the league.
"It's winning time," Irving told reporters. "I feel like when the ball's in my hand, I've just got to make the right play. Being down the stretch, just trying to make the right decisions."
His performance, for the time being, put talk of the impending free agent's future on the back burner. If there is one team that is familiar with drama surrounding Irving, it's Cleveland, where he started his career, became a hero and then forced a trade -- to the Celtics.
The two teams meet Tuesday for the final time this season with questions surrounding Irving's future in Boston.
And for the second time this season, Irving won't be in the lineup against his former franchise.
The Celtics announced Monday that Irving will miss the game with a hip strain. He also didn't play Jan. 23 when the Cavs traveled to Boston.
The Celtics have won the previous two meetings this season, outscoring the Cavaliers by 53. Irving scored 29 in the first meeting and Cleveland-area native Terry Rozier went for 26 in the second win.
After vanquishing the Thunder, Boston has now won nine of its last 10 games and is 24-9 since Nov. 26. Irving, statistically is having the best season of his career. But Irving leaving the door open to bolt TD Garden for say, Madison Square Garden, dominated talk over the few days.
He said as much the day after the Knicks traded Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas and created enough salary cap space to sign two max veterans. And this came after an apology to LeBron James for his youthful indiscretions, the same things Irving faces daily with the youthful Celtics.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to do what's best for my career, and that's just where it stands. That's just where it stands," he told reporters.
The Celtics have underachieved and struggled, but there still is a good chance they will make an extended postseason run. They have climbed into third place in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
There's no chance for Cleveland, which had hoped to be competitive in the post-LeBron James era. Injuries and trades haves left the team bereft of much talent.
The latest to go was Rodney Hood, who was shipped to Portland on Sunday for two players and a pair of second-round draft picks.
Larry Nance Jr. and David Nwaba came back from injuries last week. Nwaba is the team's best defender and was welcomed back by teammates after being out since late December with an ankle injury.
"Having another tough individual one-on-one defender is huge, because when we get broken down off the dribble, the defense collapses and that's when they get 3s," Nance said. "So having another guy that can take the challenge and man up and guard his man side-to-side and one-on-one is going to end up being big time for us."
Tristan Thompson remains out, and the Cavs' best player over the past month, Cedi Osman, injured his ankle in Saturday's loss to Dallas.
Osman is a game-time decision as is five-time All-Star Kevin Love, who has missed the entire season except for four games.
Boston will be without Aron Baynes (left foot injury), who is not expected back for at least a week.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019