Phantom Kyrie Irving returns: Celtics star wears protective facemask vs. Nets

Phantom Kyrie Irving is back. After missing the Celtics’ win over the Raptors on Sunday, the Boston guard was back in action for Tuesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving had to play with a protective mask after suffering “a minor facial fracture” in the team’s 90-87 win over the Hornets on Friday .

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This isn’t the first time Irving has worn a mask. 

In 2012, during his second season in the NBA, then-20-year old Irving broke a bone in his jaw and had to wear a black plastic mask against the Knicks.

Surprisingly, having half of his face covered turned out well for him.

Irving put up a career-high 41 points and was appropriately dubbed “The Phantom of the Garden.”

Irving swapped the black plastic mask for a clear model for the next 18 games. 

In his 19 games wearing a mask that season, Irving shot 47.5 percent from the floor (39.8 percent from 3-point range) and averaged 24.5 points per game, according to Boston.com .

#MaskedKyrie quickly began trending Tuesday night: 

UPDATE: Irving was the hero the Celtics needed Tuesday. He scored a game-high 25 points and added five assists in Boston’s 109-103 victory, the team’s 13th in a row. Afterward, he had a funny explanation as to why he didn’t go back to the black mask:

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