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Kyrie Irving after Game 5 loss: “glad we got to feel this”

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All season, Kyrie Irving has stressed the importance of experience. Could a 4-1 series loss to the Bucks fuel his return to Boston next season?

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Four Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

At the end of Game 5, a TNT camera tracked Kyrie Irving on the Fiserv Forum floor as he snaked around the growing crowd. It was the most movement that Irving had seen in a herd of Bucks all series and he used it to congratulate each and every player. It was a sign of respect from Irving and a good reminder of why he’s such a beloved player in the NBA community.

In his post-game (post-series, post-season, and maybe post-Celtics career) presser, Kyrie was effusive with his praise for Milwaukee. When asked about his takeaways from this year, he guided the conversation back to the Bucks, saying, “just a lot of lessons to take from this season from Day 1 in training camp all the way to now. It just felt like a rush. I tried to enjoy as many moments as I could. It really comes down to great team basketball, who’s playing better at a certain time of the year, the connectivity, the ability to respond. They showed all year why they were who they were. They were very dominating in this series after Game 1.”

It’s hard not to hear some regret in Kyrie’s voice. It was a bitter end to what was supposed to be a special year for the Celtics and Irving. But after missing last year’s playoffs with a knee injury, Kyrie just couldn’t regain that wizardry and closer status that he was known for in Cleveland. And yet, he also seemed undeterred.

“Truth be told, it’s no time to be disappointed. I think you take your lessons, you take your ass-whoopin’ they handed to us, and you move on. It’s a basketball journey.”

After three straight trips to the NBA Finals, this rocky road ended in a gentleman’s sweep in Milwaukee. These were unfamiliar confines for Irving. “The taste of feeling defeat in this type of style, being down 1-4, I haven’t felt,” he said. “So, for me, it’s just moving on to the next thing and just seeing where that ends up.”

The elephant in the press room, of course, was Irving’s future path and impending free agency. He danced around the topic at times, saying that he wanted to first regroup with his family in Boston and “decompress, do what human beings do.” However, there were moments that suggested he might honor his preseason commitment of re-signing with the Celtics this summer. In the middle of crediting the Bucks’ defense on him, Irving said, “one of the important lessons I’m going to take from this is just how smart our team has to be in order to be at that next level.”

That’s obviously not “if you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here,” but it does offer a glimpse of where his head might be at on May 8th after a disappointing end to his season. His teammates were a little more clear. Marcus Morris, an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, said, “I love being here in Boston. I’ve enjoyed it a lot and hopefully I stay here, man, because it’s a great organization.” Al Horford, who has a player option to return next season, echoed his love for the franchise and city and said he wants to come back.

All year, Irving has stressed the importance of experience and while this 4-1 drubbing is surely negative, he said that he was “glad that we got to feel this in the eyes of looking at a great team like that.” Kyrie could leave for New York or Los Angeles and join veterans that have been there before. Those rumors are out there and they’ll get louder and louder as we get closer to July 1st. But tonight, he seemed aware that they’re building something in Boston and he’s part of it.

In the four straight losses, Irving made just 25 of his 83 shots, including 5-of-27 from behind the arc. He had just 21 assists with 14 turnovers and was an abysmal -57. When asked if the uncertainty of his future weighed on him during the series, Irving simply answered “no, no” and walked away from the podium.