Irving sends teaser with July 1 remark

LOS ANGELES • Kyrie Irving, who could become a free agent at the end of the season, finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Boston Celtics won 113-99 at the struggling New York Knicks.

Friday's National Basketball Association contest came just one day after the Knicks traded injured Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, which will give New York the funds to go after top free agents this summer.

And the Madison Square Garden home fans made their feelings known, giving Irving a loud ovation when the line-ups were announced and chanting, 'We want Kyrie!' in the third quarter.

"It's nothing but a distraction at this point," said Irving, who was born in Melbourne, Australia, but grew up in New Jersey.

"I'm appreciative of the fan support I get in any arena," he said. "Obviously what's going on in terms of that noise and commentary is just a bunch of nonsense right now."

The Knicks fans' admiration might be misdirected as he already made a point at a Celtics' fan event last year, telling the crowd he would re-sign with Boston.

But when asked after the game if his mind has changed about remaining a Celtic, he said: "Ask me July 1."

Marcus Morris added 18 points for the Celtics, who won for the eighth time in nine games.

Damyean Dotson scored 22 points and Kevin Knox had 21 for the hapless Knicks, who lost a team record 13th straight home game.

They also lost their 12th straight game after losing 24 of 27 games over December and last month.

In Thursday's multi-player deal, the Knicks gave up Porzingis, Tim Hardaway, Courtney Lee and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks and received Dennis Smith, DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews, plus two future first-round picks.

The Knicks' new players were not available, so they started Dotson and Kadeem Allen as guards.

In Denver, the Nuggets nearly kept the red-hot James Harden to under 30 points as they beat Houston 136-122 to end a nine-game losing streak against the Rockets.

At the Pepsi Centre in Colorado, Nikola Jokic had 31 points and 13 rebounds while Malik Beasley (35) and Torrey Craig (22 off the bench) had career highs for Denver, who last beat the Rockets in 2015.

Denver played without their starting back court. Jamal Murray missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle and Gary Harris was out with a right adductor strain.

Harden scored 30 points to stretch his streak to 25 games of scoring 30 or more but needed a late three to keep the streak alive.

The NBA's Most Valuable Player had a difficult night; during one stretch, he missed 10 of 11 shots and four free throws as he finished nine of 21 from the field.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 03, 2019, with the headline 'Irving sends teaser with July 1 remark'. Print Edition | Subscribe