Blakely's takeaways: The streak's most improbable win

Blakely's takeaways: The streak's most improbable win

BOSTON – Even with a healthy Kyrie Irving, the Celtics struggled to score Friday night. To lose him less than two minutes into Friday’s game against Charlotte, you knew points would indeed be at a premium.
But the Celtics did what we’ve seen them do all season - look adversity in the eye, grin, and keep moving with a “no worries, we got this” mindset that has been critical to them winning 11 in a row and continuing to boast the best record in the NBA (11-2) following a 90-87 victory over the Hornets.


Irving was unable to play after catching an elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes that knocked him to the ground. He is being monitored for concussion-like symptoms. That has his availability for the game Sunday afternoon against Toronto at TD Garden very much up in the air.
However, within the disappointment of Irving’s injury comes with the reality that the Celtics managed to once again overcome a key personnel loss by rallying for a victory despite the odds being heavily stacked against them.
“We just got a lot of fight in us,” said Shane Larkin who finished with a season-high 16 points. “A lot of resilient guys. We believe in our team. We believe in each other. We just go out there and play together. There’s not one guy that took it upon himself to say, ‘all right I’m gonna bring us back.’ We kind of played together. Played the right way and when we do, it’s hard to guard all of us.”
Here are five takeaways from the C's 11th consecutive victory: 
For a team with several players who stepped up in the second half, few elevated their play the way Larkin did for the Celtics. He wasn’t just making shots; he was making them at critical times as Boston worked towards erasing an 18-point deficit. Larkin finished with a season-high 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick gets a lot of praise for the “stats are for losers” line, but what often gets ignored is what he said after that. “The final score is for winners and that’s what it’s really about,” Belichick said. The play of Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown are good examples of that. They combined to shoot just 6-for-30 from the field, and yet there was Smart tallying almost half (seven) of Boston’s 15 assists. And it was Brown’s driving lay-up in the fourth quarter that gave Boston a one-point lead that it would not relinquish, not to mention he grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.  The numbers weren’t great for either player, but their ability to impact winning – which as Belichick says, is what it’s all about – is undeniable.

As this winning streak of the Celtics rolls along, Stevens becomes a bigger part of the team’s success. He’s putting guys in position to be great, keeping the spirits high of guys at the end of the bench who know he’ll give them a shot at some point. Most significant? The Celtics just keep on winning. A number of different faces have emerged which helps, but the one constant in the team’s run of success has been Stevens. “He’s a guru,” said Marcus Morris. “He’s putting us in the right spots, calling out the plays. He’s doing really good, utilizing everybody.”

For those who wonder just how good a defender Aron Baynes can be, Friday night was like a Baynes highlight reel. He blocked three shots, contested others and made his presence inside the paint defensively his own personal no-fly zone for Hornets players. He spent more time than anyone guarding Dwight Howard, playing a critical role in Howard missing six of his eight shots. On top of that, Howard wound up with more turnovers (seven) than points (six).

He only has a handful of games under his belt this season, but it’s clear why the Celtics viewed him as someone who could help them this season. The final 23.8 seconds Friday served as a reminder as to his value to this team. After draining a 21-footer that put Boston ahead 88-85, he followed that with the defensive play of the night. With Boston clinging to an 88-87 lead, he forced ultra-quick Kemba Walker into a really tough miss that would serve as Charlotte’s last shot at victory. The big shot and clutch defensive play were only part of what made it such a good game for Morris. Afterwards, he indicated that he did not have any major soreness in his left knee, which was not the case after his previous game. His improving health combined with his talents at both ends of the floor, bode well for Boston’s chance to continue along its winning ways on Sunday against Toronto.




The Kyrie brand continues to expand

USA TODAY Sports Photo

The Kyrie brand continues to expand

LOS ANGELES – With Tinseltown as the backdrop, Kyrie Irving’s acting debut in the film, "Uncle Drew the Movie," will officially hit movie theaters this summer.

A five-time All-star and NBA champion, Irving is one of the few NBA players with a signature shoe deal.

And that deal, along with him venturing into the film game, speaks to the ever-expansion of the Irving brand. During Saturday’s media scrum, a time when the sports journalism world chimes in with a wide array of questions for the best players on the planet, some of the first ones asked were in regards to his upcoming movie.

They came from former Celtic Nate Robinson, who is in the movie as well.

That said, it still doesn’t diminish the fact that Irving is setting himself up to be more than just a talented basketball player.

“It comes with a lot of sacrifice, privacy,” Irving said before adding, “but you get a chance to put your creative influence and inspiration on things that have helped you develop as a person. You get to share that with the world. That’s pretty awesome. And you get to share it through art, through my game, through different avenues of sponsorship and you’re able to get that message through to people. That’s pretty awesome. I try to take full advantage of that.”

Part of Irving’s all-star weekend was spending time with the press to speak specifically about his upcoming movie.

Irving also made public appearances for corporate partners such as Mountain Dew.

There was a time not that long ago when the idea of an athlete having interests outside of basketball were frowned upon.

But Irving has been moving to a different beat for as long as he has been playing the game of basketball.

And that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

“Sometimes because of the way we’re put on this platform, people have opinions on the way that we should be, how we should act, things that we should be involved with,” Irving said. “The important thing that get’s glazed over is that we’re human beings. So, it’s pretty tough finding that balance.

Irving added, "For me, it’s just about respect all people. That’s something I always try to hammer home, something I was taught as a kid. It’s crazy. You get slack for saying stuff about certain things and feeling strongly, and if you don’t say enough you get the bad end of that as well. If you feel confident and you’re knowledgeable on a lot of things and you feel strongly about it, you should go for it. Everyone has a voice and they should be respected.”


Ray Allen among Hall of Fame finalists

Ray Allen among Hall of Fame finalists

Ray Allen, part of the Celtics' Big Three that won Boston's last championship in 2008, is one of the finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 announced Saturday at NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.

Allen, the all-time leader in three-pointers with 2,973, who, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, helped the Celtics hang their 17th championship banner, joins Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Grant Hills and WNBA stars Tina Thompson and Katie Smith as first-time nominees. Also among the finalists are Maurice Cheeks, Chris Webber, coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell, coach Kim Mulkey, coach Rudy Tomjanovich, referee Hugh Evans, and the Wayland Baptist University women’s team.

The inductees to be enshrined in the Hall in September in Springfield, Mass., will be revealed April 1 at the NCAA men's Final Four in San Antonio. 

Finalists for induction need to be retired for at least three seasons. They'll now be voted on by a 24-member panel that includes current Hall of Famers, basketball executives and media members. Those receiving at least 18 of 24 votes will be inducted.

More on the Hall finalists here from NBCSports.com's Pro Basketball Talk 

Allen was part of a recent Celtics Talk podcast where he talked about his Celtics career and the controversy after he left to join the Miami Heat in 2012. Click here or listen below.