BOSTON — 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 ended their six-game losing streak.
“I was thinking about it since we lost to them,” Irving said after scoring 22 points to coast past the Knicks, 128-100, on Thursday night and exacting 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 all right.
“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 the Knicks, who have lost four of their 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.”
The Celtics scored the first three baskets of the game and never trailed. They led by 8 after one, by 11 after two and by 15 points after scoring 8 straight to make it 97-82 near the end of the third quarter.
The Knicks were 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 the Knicks won, 117-109, in Boston on Nov. 21, sending 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.” He added, “We played much better, and I felt better tonight.”
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