Celtics and Cavaliers fans didn’t have to wait long for the highly anticipated bout between the two Eastern Conference powerhouses. On NBA tip-off night, Cleveland hosted Boston for Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving’s first games against their former teams.
Former Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett broke down the matchup between the two point guards, who were involved in a historic blockbuster trade this offseason. Here’s which player got the edge, according to KG:
IT or Kyrie? 🤔
— KG's Area 21 (@KGArea21) October 17, 2017
Defense: “Neither one of these guys play defense right.”
Passing: After much deliberation, and a little groaning, Garnett reluctantly gave Irving the point. He justified his choice: “It’s just because I see Isaiah put the ball in the basket a lot more.”
Handles: Again with a bit of a grimace, Garnett gave both players the point, saying that he’s seen “both of these guys make people fall.”
“I see IT get through traffic like he’s on the 405 and still get to where he’s going,” he added. “Kyrie, I see him in some sticky situations that he get out of… So yeah, I can’t take nothing away from both of them.”
Clutch: Thomas earned the point here on the account of his past performances as well as his corresponding nickname.
“He’s just Mr. Clutch. He’s Mr. Fourth Quarter,” Garnett said. “When you think of IT, you think of the fourth quarter. That’s his name. That’s his new nickname for 2017.”
Leader: Back with another grimace, albeit less severe, Garnett awarded Thomas the point but with one disclaimer: “We’re about to see Kyrie’s leadership skills though.”
Locker room presence: Thomas earned the point, not necessarily for his commanding spirit, but rather for Irving’s lack thereof (or lack of opportunity to exhibit such qualities). Garnett’s explanation touched on one of the major reasons Irving reportedly wanted to leave Cleveland:
“It’s kind of hard to say that because Kyrie played with probably, arguably one of the best players to ever play, and you got to anticipate LeBron dominating that,” he said. “I’m pretty sure he had two cents. He’s the second best player, but with a personality like LeBron, I gotta think that he’s gonna trump, if not dominate, the room.”
Finisher at the rim: Irving.
Swagger: “I don’t know what y’all are looking at, but both of them got swag. If you’re making people fall and you’re Mr. Four, I mean, you gotta have some swag with it.”
Longevity: Irving for the simple reason that “I.T.’s got some miles on him. He’s a little older than Kyrie.”
Basketball IQ: “They’re point guards. They both have high IQs.”
2018 Eastern Conference Champions: Even though it’s been almost five years since he last donned Celtics’ green, Garnett couldn’t pick against his former organization.
“I’m going to go with the C’s,” he said. “I can’t go against my C’s, even though I’m anticipating Cleveland to be better with IT. But I’m also anticipating Boston to be better, more of a collective group, better personnel… I love the rookies in Boston. I think they can contribute right away.”
MVP: “Well, the only reason I’m gonna go with Kyrie is because I think he asked for this opportunity, and I think that this is his moment to prove all naysayers wrong. And he’s the one with the most pressure on him, and I think he’s going to live up to it.”
Down one point with 10 seconds left, who do you want taking the last shot? Thomas.
“This kid, with 10 seconds left, I think he’s going to get it done,” Garnett explained. “Both of them are going to get it done, but I’m going to go with the gutty veteran here.”