As the Cleveland Cavaliers win their third game in a row against a difficult Boston Celtics team on the road, more good news comes from the direction of Kyrie Irving, who has set a date for his return.
While the Cavaliers beat the Celtics 89-77 with 24 points from LeBron James, who is no longer received like public enemy number one in the arena, Irving made it clear that his time on the sidelines handing out high fives is gone. He’ll be back on Thursday, December 17, to play against the Oklahoma City Thunder, giving himself just about a week to get ready for the Christmas day showdown against the Golden State Warriors.
Irving has missed 23 games this season and five more in the NBA finals after suffering from a fractured kneecap at the end of game 1 in the 2015 NBA finals. He had surgery on the knee and probably could have returned sooner, but the Cavs, who lead the East by 1.5 games over the Chicago Bulls and the Toronto Raptors, were in no rush to risk him, preferring to wait until he’s “more” than 100% fit to return. While Irving returns, Iman Shumpert, who only came back from his injury last weekend suffered from a groin injury, and is already ruled out from the Thunder game.
There didn’t seem to be anything special in the atmosphere or the approach to the game. All the talk of hate and retaliation from Jae Crowder, didn’t really have anything to do with reality. J.R. Smith didn’t apologize, and nothing happened. Kevin Love looked good, maybe motivated but nothing special, scoring 20 points while Kelly Olynyk, who dislocated Love’s shoulder in last season’s playoff series, finished with just 5 in 22 minutes.
Avery Bradley complained after the game that he and his teammates didn’t play hard enough in order to shake up the Cavs. But in truth, the Celtics simply played bad basketball against a team that’s better than in every phase of the game, including smarter with and without the ball, despite all the compliments people love to hand Brad Stevens’ team. The Celtics looked better in their loss to the Warriors, and it was a closer, more interesting game. They were probably lucky to sandwich in a win against the Charlotte Hornets, but against the Cavaliers, the officials weren’t about to help them escape with victory.