Celtics

Irving leads Celtics to fifth consecutive win, 108-94 over Spurs

Irving leads Celtics to fifth consecutive win, 108-94 over Spurs

BOSTON –  When you watch Kyrie Irving play, there’s a methodic, calculated pace about him where he seems to pick and choose when to pick a defense apart.

Through the first six games this season, he usually went into takeover mode late in the game.

But on Monday, Irving jumped on the San Antonio Spurs from the outset, and the Celtics’ control was never really threatened as they cruised to a 108-94 win.

The win not only extended the Celtics’ winning streak to five in a row, but also snapped an 11-game losing skid to the Spurs (4-3). Brandon Paul led San Antonio with 18 points off the bench while LaMarcus Aldridge who came in averaging more than 25 points per game for the Spurs, had just 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting which included him going scoreless in the second half.

Irving led all scorers with 24 points and six assist. Al Horford continued his solid play at both ends of the floor which included him tallying his second double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds to go with five assists. Boston (5-2) got a strong performance offensively from Jaylen Brown who came in having shot 3-for-17 in his last two games. On Monday, he had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

But this game was about Irving setting the tone from the very outset.

After a 16-point, 5-assist first half by Irving, Boston opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run that featured eight points from Irving.

Boston played with a double-digit lead for most of the third and fourth quarters, but it wasn’t until Terry Rozier scored eight straight points that pushed Boston’s lead to 93-76 that it seemed the Celtics had finally gave themselves enough of a cushion to feel comfortable with the win.

From there, the only thing left up in the air was how much of a margin would the Celtics win by.

Of course, Boston was facing a San Antonio team missing key players such as Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who were all out with injuries.

Still, the Spurs have been among the best at getting the most out of their players when others are out with injuries.

In many ways, that has been what this Celtics team has been about ever since Gordon Hayward’s gruesome left ankle injury that’s expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season.

As much as this game featured several Celtics stepping up, there’s no escaping the impact that Irving had on the game and how his leadership on the floor, set the team’s strong play afterwards in motion that paved the way for Brad Stevens’ first victory over the Spurs and Gregg Popovich.

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the 76ers at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview:  Sweeping Sixers will depend on containing Joel Embiid

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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Celtics-76ers preview: Sweeping Sixers means limiting Joel Embiid

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Celtics-76ers preview: Sweeping Sixers means limiting Joel Embiid

BOSTON – Joel Embiid is Philadelphia’s starting center. 

And when it comes to the team’s play, he wants to be the center of attention. 

Well big fella, you’ll get your wish tonight as the Boston Celtics (34-11) go for the season sweep against the Philadelphia. 

But for the Sixers (20-20) to win in Boston for the first time since 2014, they’ll have to do it without J.J. Redick (out with left fibula injury) who had a game-high 22 points when the Celtics and Sixers played last week in London. 

That means Embiid will have the ball in his hands quite a bit, as Philly tries to make up for the absence of Redick who is one of the best long-range shooters in the NBA. 

“We know they’ll go more inside to (Ben) Simmons and (Joel) Embiid,” said Celtics forward/center Daniel Theis. “It’s gonna be a team job to … focus on defense again.”

When the two met last week in London, defense was an afterthought for Boston in the first half, struggles that allowed Philadelphia to pull ahead by as many as 22 points before the Celtics regrouped, re-focused and played with a re-energized vigor in the second half before pulling away for a 114-103 win. 

Doing so tonight will once again require them to limit the impact of Embiid who will have the offense flow more through him, something that did not happen in the early goings of last week’s game, something Embiid didn’t mince his words about following the loss. 

“I started off really frustrated by the way everything was set up,” Embiid said following the loss in London. “And if I’m not having fun … kick someone’s ass or talking trash, if I’m not doing that, usually I have bad games.”

Embiid had a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against the Celtics, but he shot just 6-for-17 from the field and turned the ball over four times.

“I didn’t do a good job of letting my teammates find me,” Embiid said at the time.

While Embiid believes his struggles in London had more to do with what he didn’t do rather than what the Celtics did, the Celtics have done a good job defensively on Embiid all season. 

In the two games Embiid has played against the Celtics this season, he is averaging 13.0 points while shooting just 30.3 percent from the field. Both serve as Embiid’s lowest scoring average and shooting percentage against teams he faced more than once this season. 

 And his career average of 16.3 points per game against Boston is his lowest career scoring average against any team that he has played against at least three times. 

One of the keys to the Celtics defensively has been Aron Baynes, whose 94.9 defensive rating is tops among all NBA players who log at least 18 minutes of action per game.

Baynes has size, strength and has better lateral quickness than one would expect for a 6-foot-10, 260-pound center. 

But preparation is also key for his success defensively. 

“We have great coaches here and watch so much film,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “They tell you their tendencies, whatever you need to do for the upcoming game, they put you in great position. As long as you stay within the system, you’re usually in a pretty good spot. That’s what I try and do.”

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