Kyrie's strong defensive game overshadowed by brilliant offensive finish

Kyrie's strong defensive game overshadowed by brilliant offensive finish

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving, we knew he would get his hands the ball a lot.

But defensively?

Irving has 22 deflections this season, which not only leads the Celtics (4-2), but ranks third in the league behind Oklahoma City's Paul George (27 deflections) and Indiana's Thaddeus Young (25). Irving is also tied for third in the NBA in loose balls recovered (9).

And while he does gamble at times defensively, it certainly hasn’t significantly hurt his defensive rating this season.


Irving’s defensive rating is 95.8 which is by far the best it has been since he came into the NBA as the top overall pick in 2011.

Prior to this season, his best defensive rating was 104.5 which came during the 2014-2015 season in Cleveland, his first with LeBron James as a teammate.

Irving is making lots of good reads, seemingly in the right place often at the right time defensively, and the result has been lots of opportunities to disrupt opposing team’s offense.

“I hope those deflections turn into a few more steals so we can start our break,” Irving said. “But, just staying active on the basketball, being able to be at the top of the key as well as impact the ball, off the ball, and understand my defensive pressure can be an aid for us to get timely stops throughout the whole game.”

In Boston’s 96-90 win at Miami on Saturday, Irving was brilliant down the stretch while finishing with a game-high 24 points which included him scoring nine of Boston’s last 10 points.

But lost in his strong performance were three steals and a game-high eight deflections which helped force the usually turnover-low Miami Heat into committing 19 turnovers which Boston converted into 21 points which accounted for 21.9 percent of the Celtics' offense.

Regardless of what Irving does defensively, his offensive game will always be what most people talk about.

But as he continues to grow as a player, as a leader on this Celtics team, the 25-year-old All-Star knows he has to continue to show that he’s more than just an ankle-breaking, finish-at-the-rim scorer who can also knock down the 3-ball if defenses aren't careful.

“When we’re playing against great teams, going against guys that have a lead guard or teams that have a 6-8 point guard, a 6-9 point guard, I’m able to do different things on any given night,” said Irving whose 2.3 steals per game ranks sixth in the NBA this season. “It’s definitely a luxury to have guys that have length on this team that are able to cover up for our mistakes and me able to get my hands on the basketball a few times and turn them into some fast breaks.”


Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

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Celtics are calm, focused, and ready for Game 4

MILWAUKEE – Inside the Boston Celtics locker room, there was an unmistakable calm among the players moments removed from a 116-92 thumping at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Players talked among themselves about what went wrong, about what they will do different in Game 4 on Sunday but more than anything else, they owned the loss.

There was no finger-pointing or second-guessing the head coaches’ player rotations or not-so-stealth putdowns of an opposing player who had been playing well – all things done by the Bucks thus far in this series.


The post-game highlights were still in heavy rotation, but the Celtics had already moved on mentally to Sunday’s Game 4 matchup.

“They did what they had to do. It is what it is,” Marcus Morris told NBC Sports Boston. “Can’t dwell on it. We’ll see them on Sunday.”

As much as Boston has been a team that’s built upon a “Next Man Up” framework, an “on-to-the-next-game” mindset is also deeply woven into this team’s DNA.

That’s why win or lose, the Celtics don’t spend much time thinking or talking about what just happened.

And it is games like the one we saw on Friday where that approach is absolutely critical to them continuing along a successful path and not let rough nights such as Friday’s beatdown, derail them.

More than anything else, the Celtics have extracted elements beyond the X’s and O’s of Friday’s loss as their takeaways in helping improve their overall play for Sunday.

It’s easy to forget that Friday’s game was the first time this team had played a postseason road game together which any NBA veteran will tell you, is different than what you experience during the regular season.

Boston’s Al Horford believes having gone through that with this group for the first time on Friday, will benefit the Celtics in Game 4.

“We learned what the level of intensity is when you’re playing in the playoffs on the road,” Horford said. “At home, you feel good. You’re comfortable and confident. Even though we’ve been playing on the road all year, it’s different in the playoffs.

Horford added, “it’s a good learning experience for our group.”

And while there are sure to be adjustments made on Boston’s part, don’t expected them to stray too far away from who they have been all season.

“We’re super excited about Sunday,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “(Friday), we dropped the ball. We feel like we could have played a lot better. We can’t wait for Sunday, and we’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”


Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

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Morris fined $15,000 for criticism of officiating

MILWAUKEE – Marcus Morris has been fined $15,000 for “public criticism” of officiating relating to Boston’s 116-92 loss to Milwaukee on Friday night.

Following the loss, Morris was asked about the technical foul he received after some brief words with Bucks forward/center Thon Maker.

Morris was the only player whistled for a technical foul for either team.


"I can't even speak on it, man," Morris told reporters when asked about the technical foul. "It's been the same (bleep) all year. I'm expecting it. They knew what they wanted before the game started. They knew who they wanted to go after.”

Morris was ejected in a Celtics win over Toronto on March 31, and afterwards tapped the official on his backside as he left the court.

Since then, Morris has sensed officials were giving him the cold shoulder and to a lesser degree, not giving him the same benefit of the doubt or leeway as other players.

After the ejection, Morris took to Twitter to apologize for making contact with an official.

“Sorry @NBA for smacking the ref ass after getting ejected. I see other refs took offense to it. My apologies

— Marcus Morris (@MookMorris2)”