There are nights where Celtics guard Kyrie Irving makes being a legitimate NBA superstar look almost effortless. Thursday night at TD Garden, the stage on which the C’s beat the Sixers by a 108-97 final, turned out to be one of those nights.
It was in 32 minutes of play that Irving tallied a team-leading 36 points (the second-most he’s scored as a Celtic), and converted on 12 of his 21 shot attempts (a 57.1 field goal percentage), including five of eight from downtown (a 62.5 shooting percentage).
“[I] say all the time how spoiled we are to coach players at this level and he’s certainly one of the most gifted scorers in the game,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Irving. “He can do things with just a tiny amount of space and make it look easy.”
But Irving’s best work undoubtedly came in the first half, when he scored 20 points on an incredibly efficient 7-of-12 shooting in just over 17 minutes of action, and allowed the Celtics to successfully overcome what was a definitely sloppy start against the Sixers.
That first half — and second half contributions from the rest — allowed the Celtics to diversify their offensive attack when it was ‘winning time’ in the fourth quarter, with the C’s putting this game away with a 12-point lead on a 16-7 run in the fourth quarter.
“It’s go-time, especially when the game’s in the balance,” Irving, who has done his best to make you forgot about Isaiah Thomas’ late-game heroics, said of the fourth quarter. “A lot of the opportunities that [you] were afforded in the first three quarters probably won’t be there in the fourth quarter, so you have to make very, very quick decisions in terms of what you’re doing with the basketball, and where guys need to be on the floor. And when you’re playing like that, some guys think a lot quicker than others. I was just fortunate that my mind works a lot quicker than other people in the fourth quarter.”
“It’s a luxury not a lot of teams have,” C’s center Al Horford said of Irving’s offensive impact on the game. “Just his will to make those shots when you need it most, keeps impressing me game by game. [Irving] forces a couple of people, and there’s a lot of opportunities that he creates, so if teams don’t double him, he’ll make them pay.”
And it’s obviously no coincidence that the 25-year-old Irving’s best basketball has led to the Celtics matching their franchise record for the most November wins, with the C’s having gone 14-2 this month, matching their stellar Nov. in the 2009-10 season.
In what could have easily been a ‘slow build’ kind of season for the Celtics given all their new pieces added to the mix, Irving has emerged as the straw that stirs this Boston drink into a legitimate contender, even with their go-to scorer shelved for the season. And even with Irving having to focus on his offensive impact more than almost everybody probably anticipated — at least from a straight-up scoring perspective — he’s found a way to successfully deliver, with at least 25 points in six of his nine games since returning to the C’s lineup.
“[Irving] just has a special ability,” Stevens said.
And the Celtics have wins in 19 of their first 23 games of The Irving Era.
JBL Audio Stat of the Game: The Celtics had seven blocks, while the Sixers had just one.
Full article @ Celtics 108, Sixers 97: Kyrie Irving is unstoppable
Source: GreenStreet Blog