Kyrie Irving dominated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. (David Richard/USA Today Sports)

Kyrie Irving praises Celtics, Isaiah Thomas following Game 5 victory

May 26, 2017 - 12:18 pm

Despite all the talk about the dominance of LeBron James, who heads to his seventh consecutive NBA Finals next week, in many ways it was the play of Kyrie Irving that proved to be the undoing of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

The sixth-year point guard was outstanding throughout the series, averaging 25.8 points per game. This was highlighted by his 42-point performance in Game 4, a contest where LeBron had four fouls in the first half for the first time in his career.

Following the Cavs victory and elimination of Boston on Thursday night, Irving heaped praise on the Celtics and their injured leader Isaiah Thomas.

"You have to commend them for accomplishing what they did, especially in the regular season,” Irving said to reporters. "I mean, the goals that they set, they were definitely challenging for us, and it made the league turn for a little bit, just 1 versus 2, 2, 1, who was going to get first place and who was actually ready for the playoffs. That makes basketball exciting. That makes the league exciting. And the fashion that they were playing basketball was at such a high level."

Thomas, whose extraordinary season and courageous playoff performance was cut short, did not appear in the final three games of the series due to an injured hip.

Irving expressed dismay at the loss of Thomas and complimented his play.

"Honestly we didn’t want IT to go down," Irving said. "But the way that guy has played, I mean, the way he was playing, he's deserving of all the credit that he's gotten. As well as guys like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk and just all their guys. They're just dedicated to basketball. They’re coming out and their hitting us, and they don't care who you are. I was watching before tonight's game the game that they played in Golden State. And the way, in the fashion that they did that [beating the Warriors at Oracle Arena]. That was the testament, that was the turn of how special they could be. And that made it this far. And it was 1 versus 2. It was a matchup that we were all looking forward to, and I'm glad that we prevailed. But they tested us every single minute, and we needed that."