Celtics

BC drops to 2-7 after 28-14 loss at Wake Forest

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BC drops to 2-7 after 28-14 loss at Wake Forest

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Michael Campanaro caught three first-half touchdown passes from Tanner Price and Wake Forest took a step closer to becoming bowl eligible with a 28-14 win over Boston College on Saturday.

Campanaro tied an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 16 receptions for 123 yards and became only the eighth player in school history to catch three TD passes in a game.

Price was outstanding, completing 39 of 57 passes for 293 yards as the Demon Deacons (5-4, 3-4) bounced back from a 29-point thrashing last week to No. 9 Clemson.

Wake Forest came in with the lowest-scoring offense in the ACC, but looked sharp early with Price hooking up on touchdown strikes of 5, 27 and 16 yards to Campanaro to build a 21-7 halftime lead.

Chase Rettig threw for 357 yards for Boston College (2-7, 1-5), but turned the ball over four times, three of those on interceptions.

The Deacons need to win one of their final three games to become bowl eligible. They're on the road at N.C. State and No. 4 Notre Dame before closing at home against Vanderbilt.

The Eagles will not be headed to a bowl for the second straight season after playing in 12 straight. The loss also means Boston College will finish in last place in the ACC's Atlantic Division.

The previous nine meetings between these teams were decided by 10 points or less, but it appeared early on Wake Forest might run away with this one after jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

But Rettig capped a 12-play, 95-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter with a 16-yard scoring strike to Alex Amidon to cut the Deacons' lead in half. Amidon finished with 10 catches for 130 yards.

However, Wake Forest turned the tide late in the second quarter when defensive end Zach Thompson stripped Rettig of the ball in the backfield and recovered at the Eagles 15. Five plays later Price hooked up with a wide-open Campanaro on a wheel route for their third touchdown with 54 seconds left in the half.

Boston College would make it close.

After a 52-yard completion from Rettig to Johnathan Coleman, the Eagles went to their bag of tricks. Rettig threw a lateral to receiver Bobby Swigert, who promptly threw to a wide open Chris Pantale in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 21-14.

That was as close as they'd get.

Wake Forest pushed the lead back to 14 when Josh Harris busted off right tackle for a 23-yard scoring run on a fourth-and-1 play to make it a two-possession game.

Harris finished with 82 yards on 16 carries.

Terence Davis added seven catches for 62 yards for the Deacons prior to leaving late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Wake Forest's defense had its share of big plays. Along with the four turnovers, they also had three stops on fourth-and-1 plays, including one near the goal line in the second half.

It's been a tough year for the Deacons.

They've played all year with a makeshift offensive line, saw their defensive statistics balloon when their nose guard missed two early games due to injury and had eight players serve suspensions of varying length for off-field incidents.

But this win went a long way toward healing their pain.

The road doesn't get any easier for Boston College, which hosts Notre Dame next Saturday.

Since joining Celtics, Irving has grown into complete player

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Since joining Celtics, Irving has grown into complete player

BOSTON – For most of this NBA season, the narrative surrounding the Celtics has centered around the maturity of their young players.

Well, there's a much bigger tale of growth on this team. But we're not talking about rookie Jayson Tatum or second-year wing Jaylen Brown.

We're talking about Kyrie Irving, whose desire for growth fueled his decision to want out of Cleveland this past offseason.

And that growth has in turn sparked the Celtics to what has been an unprecedented run of success.

"He's doing things that we never saw when he was in Cleveland," one league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. "He always had great talent, but could he lead a really good team? I think we got our answer now."

The Celtics (16-2) boast the best record in the NBA, which is amazing when you consider Gordon Hayward broke his ankle less than five minutes into the season opener. Not to mention they lost their first two games.

Literally all they've done since then is win.

Boston's 16 straight victories is an NBA record after losing the first two games of the season. The winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in franchise history.

And while the pieces to Boston's success vary, the man whose growth has been at the epicenter of the Celtics' emergence as a title contender has been Irving.

You can count Mike Brown, Irving's former coach in Cleveland, among those impressed with the growth in Irving on all levels.

"To see Kyrie taking ownership of not only little things offensively, but even on the other end of the floor, leadership and all that other stuff ... I'm happy for him, I'm excited for him," Brown, now an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, told NBC Sports Boston. 

While his numbers have taken a slight dip here in Boston, Irving seems to be better in tune with what he needs to do to positively impact the play of his teammates and the team as a whole.

In Boston's 110-102 overtime win at Dallas on Monday, Irving had 47 points, the most he's scored as a Celtic.

His scoring binge included 10 points in overtime. 

And when talking about his monster scoring night, Irving provides a clue as to how his approach to the game has changed over the years in terms of scoring.

Irving described his breakout scoring night as something that "was called upon," adding: "I don't think I needed to score over 20 or 25 in particular games. So I think if you would have asked me that question probably a few years ago, I would probably tell you that I would definitely be trying to get 40."

Earlier this season, Irving talked about developing some bad habits early in his career because his primary goal, like most high draft picks, was to get buckets. That frequently led to the ball sticking in his hands too long, or him having to force up shots and not getting his teammates involved as much as he should have.

While some chalked it up to him being a selfish player, Brown saw it differently.

"A lot of it was his youth, which is more than understandable," said Brown, who coached Irving in Cleveland during the 2013-14 season. "When he first came into the league, he had played 11 games in college. Before that with high school and AAU, for a guy that talented, it was pretty easy for him. He could go out and get 40 and win and not have to focus on anything else."

Brown recalls one of the early challenges with Irving was getting him to get his teammates involved more consistently.

"One of the things I used to always hit him with, he can score and finish in a crowd like no other, especially at his size," Brown recalled. "He draws a lot of attention. I always used to tell him, whether it's the strong-side or the weak-side, guys in the corners are wide open when you dribble-penetrate because you are such a dangerous finisher."

There would be film study to illustrate this point. It would show just how easily Irving would get to various spots on the floor by breaking his defender down or splitting an upcoming double team. But it would also show that when he made his moves in traffic, far too often his head would be down, which is why he wasn't finding teammates open.

Brown pointed this out as an area Irving needed to get better at if he were going to continue ascending up the point-guard stratosphere in the NBA.

"And you know, he got a little better at it," Brown said. 

Today?

"I tell you right now, he's a double-edged sword," Brown said. "Now, not only can he finish in traffic, now he's finding guys in the strong-corner. He's finding guys in the weak corner. And he's finding guys that are in the slots above the corner on the wing. To see him make that pass with such ease and precision right now, at least for me it's a joy. It's a joy for me because it's something I knew he could do. As a young man in high school and AAU, he's probably thinking, score, score, score. So that's not something he developed growing up, at least he didn't show to me. Now to see him do it, it's beautiful."

It certainly has been for the Celtics, who are off to their best start under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens. Stevens has found a way to blend his system, which is heavily predicated on ball movement offensively and the ability to switch frequently on defense, with Irving's immense individual talent. So far at least, has been a good fit for all involved.

"Kyrie is trying to do his role to the best of his ability," Stevens said. "Obviously, his role garners a lot of attention because he scores the ball and he has those moments where he mesmerizes everybody with his ability to score the ball and handle the ball and stuff. He's trying to do all the little things. It's a brand new system. There's going to continue to be an adjustment period for him. But he's done a good job."

Listening to Irving talk following the win over Dallas, it's clear there's a considerable amount of thought on his part given to how he'll attack defenses even though we're talking about split-second, on-the-fly decisions.

"It just happens," Irving said when asked about his best scoring night as a Celtic. "Just the flow of the game, understanding where spacing is, where the shot is going to come from, when it's time to put the foot on the gas pedal, being aggressive and take advantage of certain things I was seeing out there. But my teammates did a great job of continuing to pressure the basketball."

And he continues to provide both strong play and leadership, which have moved the needle closer to him achieving what he was seeking when he asked the Cavs to trade him during the offseason.

"This was literally a decision that I wanted to make solely based on my happiness and pushing my career forward," he said earlier this season.

Watching him inside the Celtics locker room and on the floor, it's clear that he's having a good time out there.

And his career going forward? 

Irving's impact on winning has positioned him to where a strong case can be made for him being a top-5 league MVP candidate.

Following the Dallas win, Irving was serenaded by fans chanting, "M-V-P! M-V-P'" which certainly brought a smile to his face and was somewhat unexpected considering Boston was on the road.

"It's pretty awesome," Irving said of the chants. "But we got a long way to go."

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