Kyrie Irving ditched the mask and away we went.
“I asked the trainer if he could play without it,” Brad Stevens told reporters. “He said it wasn’t recommended.”
Irving’s response? “It’s my life,” he said.
Stevens is the coach of the Boston Celtics, Irving the point guard, and both were fresh off the team’s biggest win of the season — a 92-88 escape job at home Thursday over the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Irving made all the key plays, scored 16 points and passed for six assists, and the Celtics (14-2) overcame a 17-point deficit on two occasions for their 14th straight win.
He was wearing a mask to protect the fractures in his face, but tossed it aside in time for the third quarter. It was like Clark Kent ditching his glasses to become Superman.
Of course, this was a team win in the truest sense, as the Celtics fought, scrapped, defended — and turned what the Warriors hoped would be a high-scoring affair into a slog through the basketball muck.
“We didn’t play our best game but we found a way,” Celtics center Al Horford told the media. “We kept fighting and kept chipping. Our defense was great.”
Great enough that the Celtics limited the Warriors (11-4) to their season-low in points.
Great enough that Warriors shooting star Steph Curry was limited to nine points on 3-of-14 from the floor.
And great enough that the Warriors finished a miserable 7-of-32 on 3-pointers.
“Our guys are locked in and really trying,” Stevens told the media.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 22 points, and Horford finished with 18 and 11 boards.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 24 to lead the Warriors, who had just three players reach double figures. Klay Thompson (13 points) and Draymond Green (11) were the others.
Granted, it was just a regular-season game, a game everyone is likely to forget come June, or maybe even January. But it was a game that showed the Celtics are more than just a team on a winning streak. They are a team that needs to be taken seriously.
If you didn’t before, you sure should now.