Kyrie goes mask-less to finish game versus Warriors

After scoring only five points in the first three quarters of last night's dramatic 92-88 victory over the Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving decided to bail on the mask that he had been wearing to protect the broken bone in his face. The decision worked out for Irving and the Boston Celtics. Kyrie doubled his production in the final period, finishing with 11 points in the fourth quarter, and the Cs ran away with their biggest win of the season.

This decision had nothing to do with Coach Brad Stevens or the Celtics' medical team. In fact, team doctors encouraged Kyrie to keep the mask on. Any hit to the face could've set his recovery back, which would've resulted in more face time for the mask. Especially because of the way that Irving was playing at the end of the game: attacking the basket every chance that he got, and drawing contact in the process. 
But why shouldn't he take the mask off? After all, it's his face that is on the line, and it's his life.


Plus, Kyrie has expressed his hate for the facial accessory, saying that it hinders his peripheral vision. He was seen ripping the mask off every chance that he got when the Celtics played the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night.

And in my opinion, this was a great move by Kyrie. Of course, that's not saying much, since the Celtics came out victorious, but even if the Celtics had lost the game, I would've been on board with the idea of not wearing the mask. Why? Because this was the biggest game of the season. It was a potential NBA Finals preview, and it was against a team that Kyrie has had plenty of history with. This game mattered more than most, and our top dogs needed/wanted to be at their best.

Of course, there was some risk involved, but what's the worst thing that could've happened? Kyrie gets bumped in the face and puts the mask back on? And say that he was knocked in the mug and had to be removed from the game: it still would've been worth it. Sure, the Cs may have lost the game, but to be at your best, against the best, in a big-time game, is worth the sacrifice. Because even if he was removed from the game and the Celtics lost, then we'd just be back at square one. Kyrie would be wearing the mask for the next few games, which are against sub-par teams, and I imagine that he'll be wearing it in those games anyways.

This was a heroic effort by Kyrie. He truly put the team over his own well being. It's a Tommy Conlon effort: finishing the prize fight with a broken arm; a Patrice Bergeron play: competing in the Stanley Cup Finals with a hole in his lung; a Rob McClanahan move: going back into the game after dinging up his leg in the Olympics. After all, a bruise in the face is a hell of a long way from the heart.

Okay, maybe it's not as dramatic as any of those events, but still, it was a ballsy move by Kyrie and one that took a lot of heart. The thing that I'm most surprised about is how composed he seemed with the mask off. I assume that any slight touch to the face would hurt, and he was out there drawing contact, running around like a mad man, with absolutely no hesitation. I would've been flinching any time the ball was thrown my way. Mind over matter in this case.

The Celtics have been described to have 'heart' for the past few seasons, and that illustration stands true this year, too. Kyrie is fitting in just fine with the Boston sports' culture. The streak lives! 14 in a row! We're still streaking!

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Photo 1: TNT