MASKED MAN IRVING LEADS CELTICS TO 13TH STRAIGHT WIN
YORK» Kyrie Irving returned NEW to the lineup and scored 25 points while wearing a mask, and the Celtics beat the Nets 109-102 on Tuesday night for their 13th straight victory.
The Celtics remained unbeaten since an 0-2 start heading into their showdown Thursday in Boston against the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Marcus Morris added 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Jayson Tatum scored 19 points for the Celtics.
Irving missed one game with a minor facial fracture after he was hit by teammate Aron Baynes on Friday. He fiddled with the mask frequently, but it didn’t seem to affect his play much. He made a jumper with 3:40 left after the Nets had closed within four points and drove for another basket about 35 seconds later.
Boston then finally put it away with Jaylen Brown’s alley-oop feed to Tatum before Irving hit two free throws to make it 10696.
Joe Harris scored 19 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who are without leading scorer D’Angelo Russell because of a bruised left knee. Allen Crabbe and Caris LeVert added 15 points apiece.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored a season-high 32 points in his hometown as the Spurs beat the Mavericks 97-91. Gregg Popovich became the fastest NBA coach to 500 road wins. He got there in 835 away games, 41 fewer than Pat Riley. Aldridge, a product of Dallas’ Seagoville High School, scored eight points during a decisive stretch of the fourth quarter. Patty Mills added a season-high 19 points for the Spurs. … DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points and the Raptors built a big lead in the first half and held on for a 129-113 win over the Rockets. James Harden had 38 points and made 19-of-19 foul shots for the Rockets.
Batum ready to return.
Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum will make his regular-season debut Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers after missing Charlotte’s first 12 games because of an elbow injury. Hornets coach Steve Clifford told reporters that, barring a “drastic” setback, Batum would start.