It was just a minor exchange in the grand scheme of things, but it told us so much about Kyrie Irving.
Late in the third quarter on Monday night, Irving broke into the lane for a wide-open layup. Bucks MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo soared for the obvious goaltend after the ball had already rolled around the rim, landing on Irving’s back and giving him a little stare in the process.
Irving didn’t take kindly to the gesture. He harassed Antetokounmpo up the floor two possessions later, nearly stealing the ball before recovering to poke it away from the 6-foot-11 force of nature. He let him know it, too, barking at Antetokounmpo before triggering an offensive possession that ended with a Daniel Theis dunk.
Antetokounmpo stands 6-foot-11 and is averaging a ferocious 29.9 points a game, second only to Houston’s James Harden. He is a physical force and a freak of nature, capable of soaring to the basket for a dunk or spinning and slicing through defenders for layups. He has already perfected his don’t-bleep-with-me stare and might be the most imposing athlete in a league full of them.
Irving, by comparison, is only 6-foot-3, but he’s an assassin. What he lacks in Antetokounmpo’s overwhelming athleticism he makes up for in quickness, court vision, and creativity. His finishes are conceived by Escher, geometric impossibilities that defy description from point A to B.
If you were choosing based solely on appearance, Antetokounmpo would get the nod over Irving every day of the week. Frankly, he’d also be the selection based on ability, or at least potential. There’s never quite been a player like him, and he’s only going to improve.
But Irving possesses a trait that probably hasn’t earned enough attention early in this shockingly great Celtics season. His compete level is off the charts, and on Monday not even the high-flying Greek Freak could stop him.
The two dueled at TD Garden and though Antetokounmpo won the scoring battle, Irving prevailed where it mattered, leading the Celtics to a 111-100 victory.
He didn’t need to be the King in the Fourth in this one — the Celtics led by at least eight for virtually the whole game — but he still delivered when it counted, converting a twisting layup and then drilling the game-clinching step-back 3-pointer in the final 90 seconds as the Celtics improved to 21-4.
After the latter shot, he removed his mask as if to say, “My work is done,” and it was. Antetokounmpo may have wowed us with his overwhelming performance, but Irving very quietly matched him, nearly shot for shot.
The Celtics are playing with swagger, and it starts with No. 11. He proved it again on Monday.
JBL Audio Stat of the Game: The Celtics outscored the Bucks 60-34 in the paint.
JBL is the Official Sound of Jayson Tatum, The Boston Celtics, and the NBA.
Full article @ Celtics 111, Bucks 100: Kyrie Irving puts Giannis Antetokounmpo in his place in another win
Source: GreenStreet Blog