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.