Kyrie Irving hopes to ‘just keep it strictly basketball’ when the Nets visit Boston on Friday

It's been two years since Kyrie Irving starred for the Boston Celtics. 

But, don't expect a warm reception when he and the Brooklyn Nets visit TD Garden on Friday for Game 3 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

“It’s not my first time being an opponent in Boston," Irving said. "So, I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball. There’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism — people yelling (expletive) from the crowd, but even if it is, it’s part of the nature of the game and we’re just going to focus on what we can control.”

Nets guard Kyrie Irving returns to Boston for Game 3 of the first round. (Photo: Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports)

Since signing with the Nets as a free agent in 2019, Irving has yet to play in front of a live crowd in Boston. He returned twice this season — once on Christmas when he scored 37 points and once in the preseason — however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA did not allow fans in the arena. 

And during the 2019-20 season, Irving missed both trips to Boston due to a shoulder injury.

This time around will be different. With the Nets leading the series 2-0, the Celtics will have 25% of their 19,580 capacity for Game 3 and it will increase to "near full capacity" in Game 4, according to state guidelines.

Asked whether he’d experienced racism in Boston before, Irving threw up his hands and said: “I’m not the only one who can attest to this, but it’s just, you know … it is what it is. The whole world knows it.”

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