MILWAUKEE -- Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving reversed course and praised the experience of playing on the Milwaukee Bucks' throwback court after Boston's win Thursday night at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Irving scored a season-high 24 points and had seven assists in helping the Celtics to a 96-89 triumph during the Bucks' "Return to the MECCA" night, which featured the teams playing a nationally televised game on a new court that was painted like the team's famed Robert Indiana-designed floor in the arena that hosted the team from 1968 to '88.
Before Boston's shootaround Thursday morning, Irving made headlines by questioning the safety of the floor and suggested, "This is not the same NBA court I'm used to playing on." After Thursday's game, Irving said he was surprised his comments created such a stir.
"I know I had some thoughts about the floor before the game that I guess was turned into a big deal," Irving said unprompted after the game. "So it was good to see their new home floor -- is that their new home floor? The Mecca."
Informed it was just a one-time deal -- the Bucks plan to repaint the floor and send it to their G League affiliate -- Irving added, "I'm glad I was part of that historic event. It was great to see the intimacy of those seats out there as well as the fans kinda being right on top of us. I enjoy environments like that. Prior to shootaround, I had my thoughts, but, after I did my own assessment, it was definitely a great thing to be out there on that floor."
The fact that Irving turned in one of his better performances since being traded to Boston certainly might have helped his disposition. It was Irving's slick ballhandling that ultimately turned out to be the biggest concern to player safety.
Irving had questioned the welfare of the court after walking across it before Boston's morning shootaround.
"I'm all about safety, so we'll see how it is on my knees, see how it is on everyone's bodies," Irving said. "I know this is a pretty older court, and it looks like it's fresh painted as well. I'm just going to do my assessment and go from there."
When a reporter suggested it was a new court that was simply painted, Irving remained skeptical.
"It took me three steps to realize this is not the same NBA court I'm used to playing on," Irving said. "We'll see what's up."
The Bucks, celebrating their 50th season this year, said the court used Thursday was painted by ProStar Surfaces, the team's official floor contractor and supplier, and was provided by Connor Sports. The paint was supplied by Bona.
The Bucks announced a sellout attendance of 11,046 fans for Thursday's game. The intimate venue gave the tilt a bit of a college feel with fans on top of the action in an arena with no balcony level.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart did a bit of jawing with the Milwaukee bench and some courtside fans who questioned his jump shot.
"Somebody said, 'You can't shoot' and 'that's broke.' So I shot it, and I laughed at him," said Smart, who chipped in eight points in his first game back after sitting out two games because of an ankle injury. "[The fan] kind of put his head down. And I just told him, 'It's all right. Keep your head up.' And I just kept moving."
Most Celtics players were simply intrigued by the bright colors and different shapes on the court. Al Horford snapped some photos on his iPhone before Thursday's shootaround and teammates commented on the brightness of the surface.
"It's a fun game to celebrate the history of basketball here in Milwaukee and certainly in the NBA," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who is no stranger to the arena while trekking here annually when he was coach of Butler University. "It's always fun to be a part of stuff like this. But our focus has to be on playing the game."