Irving leads rout of Celtics in return to Boston Garden

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) drives against Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Kyrie Irving circled the Boston Garden parquet floor performing a spiritual cleansing ritual by waving burning sage in his hands before tipoff, then proceeded to torch his former team.

After receiving hugs and high-fives at midcourt before tipoff from former teammates Tristan Thompson, Marcus Smart and others, the Nets point guard got down to business and handed out some punishment to the Boston Celtics. Irving scored 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and had seven rebounds, five assists and two steals helping the Nets rout the Celtics 113-89 Friday night in the final preseason game for both teams.

“Coming here is easy,” Irving said. “Basketball’s the easy part. It’s the external stuff.”

Irving’s full game was on display.

He knocked down a 3-pointer over Semi Ojeleye from the left wing after creating a smidgeon of space with a pump fake. He drove the lane and canned a 15-foot step-back jumper with Jaylen Brown draped over him. And he delivered a picture-perfect pass to teammate Kevin Durant for another bucket.

“It’s like going to another day at the job,” Irving said. “I’m grateful to have relationships with guys here.”

Kyrie's mother, Elizabeth Irving, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and Kyrie was welcomed into the tribe in a 2018 ceremony. Native Americans practice “smudging,” which is a spiritual ritual to "cleanse a person or space, and to promote healing and wisdom," according to WebMD.

"Just to cleanse the energy," Irving said after the game.