Masked man Kyrie Irving scored 25 points to lead the Boston Celtics to their 13th consecutive NBA victory on Tuesday with a 109-102 triumph at Brooklyn.
The Celtics, whose 13-2 record is the NBA’s best, are on their longest win streak since winning 14 in a row in November and December of 2010, with the team record of 19 consecutive wins coming in November and December of 2008.
Irving suffered a facial fracture on Friday in Boston’s 90-87 victory over Charlotte when Australian teammate Aron Baynes elbowed him accidentally. That forced the 25-year-old guard to miss Sunday’s 95-94 victory over Toronto.
A plastic protective mask allowed Irving onto the court against the Nets and he responded by hitting 8-of-20 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line as all five Boston starters scored in double figures
“It’s a piece of plastic on your face,” Irving said. “It’s the difference in having something over your face. It’s almost like having somewhat foggy blinders on.
“When I take off the mask, I can see everything. When I have the mask on, I’m really dialed into what’s in front of me, my peripherals are a little cut off, but it’s just something you get you used to.”
Irving, who joined the Celtics in an off-season trade with Cleveland, wore a mask for 19 games with the Cavaliers in the 2012-13 season.
“Just wearing a mask for precautionary reasons,” Irving said. “Hopefully, it’ll get better in the next few weeks.”
When Tuesday’s game was over, Irving pulled the mask of his face and saluted Boston fans who were chanting “M-V-P, M-V-P,” – for Most Valuable Player – at him.
“I don’t worry about him getting a rhythm too much,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “He’ll find that and obviously he made huge plays late in the game again.”
Marcus Morris added 21 points and 10 rebounds while Al Horford contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds for Boston and called Irving’s return “great” for the Celtics.
“Just finding his way and doing what he does, making big plays for us, coming through and sealing the game,” Horford said.
The Celtics have not lost since dropping their home opener to Milwaukee on October 18, a night after Gordon Hayward was lost for the season with a horrendous knee injury in an opening-night loss at Cleveland.
At Houston, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points to lead six Raptors in double figures as the Canadian club downed the host Rockets 129-113, snapping Houston’s six-game win streak.
Kyle Lowry and C.J. Miles scored 19 points each for Toronto, Miles coming off the bench to sink 6-of-9 shots from 3-point range.
James Harden led Houston (11-4) with 38 points and 11 assists, going 19-of-19 from the free throw line.
At Dallas, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 32 points and Australian guard Patty Mills added 19 to spark the San Antonio Spurs over the Dallas Mavericks 97-91.
The Spurs, still playing without star French guard Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, improved to 9-5. The Mavericks fell to 2-13.