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NBA Daily: The Christmas Gift That Keeps On Giving

Spencer Davies takes a closer look into Kyrie Irving’s sensational performance on Christmas Day for the Boston Celtics.

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Kyrie Irving loves to play on Christmas Day.

Adding to his list already consisting of a game-winner with the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 25, 2016, Irving drained clutch shot after clutch shot en route to a 40-point performance for the Boston Celtics to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers.

Leading his team to a 121-114 holiday win, it was a ridiculous performance from start to finish for Irving. And it was against an elite individual defender in Jimmy Butler.

Irving and Butler were on the floor against one another for 34 minutes of the game. During that time, Irving scored 33 of his 40 points. His field goal percentage wasn’t an eye-opener (48.3), but we do have to remember the competition he was facing. Efficiency be damned when it’s All-Star vs. All-Star and the goal is to win the game.

The Celtics would not have been in the position they were in had it not been for Irving. Uncle Drew displayed every part of his game that makes fans love him.

There were highly contested turnaround fadeaways that he knocked down with ease. There were dazzling drives to the basket with smooth finishes around the rim off the glass. There were pull-up three-balls without hesitation, defender present of not, as soon as he touched the ball. Hustle plays and intense defense in key moments as well.

Each one of Irving’s shots down the stretch in the fourth quarter kept Boston in the ball game. Almost a carbon copy of his spinning fadeaway game-winner with Klay Thompson in his face two Christmases ago, Irving’s fake half spin, fallaway 13-footer over Butler tied the contest and sent it to overtime.

Irving wasn’t done there. In the extra period with Boston trailing by two, he drilled an above-the-break three on a hand-off from Al Horford to put Boston on top. The next possession after a Celtics’ stop, Irving sprinted down the floor and tried a 30-footer beyond the arc in transition on the run—and he nailed it.

The guys in green didn’t look back from there, as they secured a victory over Philadelphia thanks to the All-Star point guard’s brilliance.

“My teammates, my coaching staff, they just kept telling me to keep shooting,” Irving told ESPN after the win. “I felt like they were great shots. Just had to get my feet underneath me. The Philadelphia 76ers put size on me, so I just had to adjust to that playing very physical.

“My teammates did a great job of screening, but we also made some little plays tonight—screening for one another, making sure we got all the 50-50 basketballs and giving ourselves a chance to win.”

Irving revealed later to the media that he had over 20 family members in the stands watching. Admittedly, he wanted to up the energy and deliver a special one for them. Irving delivered.

All of this serves as a reminder of how dangerous Irving can be when he gets it going. Over the last two weeks, he is averaging 28.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and nearly two steals per game. He’s scored at least 24 points in all but one game and has hit 48 percent of his three-point attempts.

The Celtics are still bringing back Horford as he recovers from knee soreness, so Irving has had to step up his game.

Tuesday was just a small example of it.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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