Kyrie Irving heard all of the doubts when the Celtics, who were among the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, still had a .500 record through Thanksgiving.
The low point may have been a home loss to the Knicks that snapped New York’s six-game losing streak.
“I was thinking about it since we lost to them,” the Celtics point guard said after scoring 22 points to coast past the Knicks 128-100 on Thursday night and exact a measure of revenge for the embarrassing earlier loss. “I remember players from other teams asking about what’s going on when we were 10-10.”
Irving also had eight assists before leaving the game with about four minutes left, rubbing his right shoulder and swinging it around in pain. He raised his hand for coach Brad Stevens to take him out of the game but couldn’t get his attention and instead walked to the bench at the next whistle.
The shoulder was wrapped in ice when he walked off the court at the end of the game. Irving thought it was his AC joint and said he would be OK.
“I think he got hit,” Stevens said. “He didn’t seem too concerned about it, but he’s going to get looked over, as usual.”
Al Horford had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Boston, and Jaylen Brown returned after missing three games with a bruised lower back and scored a season-high 21 points. Jayson Tatum added 17 for the Celtics, who won their fourth straight game.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 for New York, which has lost four of its last five games. Enes Kanter had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Noah Vonleh had 12 and 10.
“Not going to win in this league giving up 30 points per quarter,” Hardaway said. “Need to do a better job as a team and individually, including myself.”
Not even close
The Celtics scored the first three baskets of the game and never trailed. They led by eight after one, by 11 after two and by 15 points after scoring eight straight to make it 97-82 near the end of the third quarter.
New York was within 12 with five minutes remaining before Boston scored the next 11 points on baskets from five different players.
“Terrible defense tonight. We just didn’t have it,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “Thought we were right there slugging away with them, but in the fourth we couldn’t keep up.”
The Celtics, who went to the Eastern Conference finals last year, were expected to be one of the league’s top teams after getting Irving and Gordon Hayward back from injuries. But New York won 117-109 in Boston on Nov. 21 loss and sent the Celtics to their third loss in a row.
Stevens wondered aloud after that one whether his team was “that good.”
“Maybe it’s not a wake-up call if you keep getting beat,” he said.
But Boston is 5-1 since then.
“Disappointing loss against them recently here,” Horford said on Thursday. “We just wanted to come out and set the tone from the beginning and I felt like we were able to do that. … We played much better, and I felt better tonight.”
Knicks: Both teams shot better than 60 percent in the first quarter, but the Knicks were just 8 for 26 in the second. … Hardaway went down to the floor after taking an elbow from Marcus Morris Sr. in the head. The play was ruled a flagrant foul. Hardaway returned a few minutes later. … Kanter had his seventh double-double in his last nine games.
Celtics: The Celtics wore green, white and yellow jerseys reminiscent of the 1980s, and they enhanced the theme by using graphics on the scoreboard from the time. During breaks, they showed video of a Green Line train approaching the original Boston Garden on elevated tracks, neither of which exists anymore. … Aron Baynes limped off in the last two minutes of the first quarter. The team said he had a left ankle injury and he did not return.