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“He’s a different breed,” Harden told reporters. “He has that killer mentality no matter who we play. He’s going to go out there and try to destroy the opponent. That mentality is what sets him apart from a lot of guys in this league.”
Harden tacked on 22 points and 10 rebounds in Brooklyn’s 121-109 victory.
Irving’s performance—the 20th 40-point outing of his career—spoiled a four-game winning streak for Boston and the return of Marcus Smart, who dropped 19 points in his first game in six weeks following a calf injury, even though the Celtics once led by 11 points and the Nets were missing Kevin Durant and new member Blake Griffin.
It should have been expected. When the two sides met Christmas Day, Irving registered 37 points against his former team. He signed with the Nets in free agency in 2019 after two seasons with Boston.
The seven-time All-Star isn’t airing grievances against the Celtics—he’s dominating everybody. He has dropped 40 points one other time this season, a Feb. 15 victory against the Sacramento Kings, and Thursday’s effort was his eighth of the season with at least 30 points.
He entered Thursday averaging 27.2 points per game, ranking eighth in the NBA.
Irving should also have a good time against the Detroit Pistons—who are last in the Eastern Conference at 10-27—on Saturday.