Charlotte Hornets

Celtics manage Irving's playing time, and the extra rest does him good

Celtics manage Irving's playing time, and the extra rest does him good

When it comes to Kyrie Irving’s time in Boston, it’s clear that things are a little different here than they were in Cleveland. 

Following Boston’s 102-91 win at Charlotte on Wednesday, Irving discussed how the way he’s used down the stretch in the fourth quarter in Boston isn’t quite the same as how things went down in the fourth when he played for the Cavaliers.

“It’s definitely a learning experience for me because that’s a time where, I was afforded when I was in Cleveland to be able to kind of tell T-Lue (head coach Tyronn Lue) and the other coaches, ‘I’m ready to go in,’” Irving said. “That was kind of on my end. Coming into the environment I’m in with Brad (Stevens, the Celtics’ head coach), his intellect of the game and being able to trust what we have going on and what’s going on throughout the game -- not that I didn’t trust what was going on before (in Cleveland) --  but for me it’s been where I have to be patient.”

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And that patience has paid off for both Irving and the Celtics (28-10), who have had the best record in the East for most of this season. 

The four-time All Star has still posted numbers that rank among the best in the East and will likely land him a spot in the All-star game once again. 

But his play has been more efficient in terms of the stats he’s generating while playing fewer minutes, which bodes well for the Celtics in their quest to keep their best player as healthy as possible for as long as possible. 

For the Celtics, Irving is averaging 24.7 points in 32.2 minutes per game, which is the fewest minutes he has averaged while generating 20 or more points per game. 

And the fourth quarter which Irving has dubbed, “winning time,” he still ranks among the league leaders in that area despite playing limited minutes. 

In Boston’s win over Charlotte, Irving had four points in the fourth quarter on 2-for-3 shooting with two assists while playing five minutes, 19 seconds. 

Irving averages 6.7 points per game in the fourth quarter, which ranks sixth in the NBA. And yet, he does it in 7.1 minutes per game, which ranks 19th among the top-20 fourth quarter scorers in the league. 

“My impact on the game is felt a little different,” Irving said.

But he admits there are times when as much as he trusts Stevens to put him back in at the appropriate time in the fourth, sometimes he wants to get back in sooner. 

“But whatever is needed, I’m willing to do for the team,” Irving said. “And I know Brad will echo the same things, so I trust what he’s got going on.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Resilient C's put together strong fourth quarter to beat Hornets

Stars, studs and duds: Resilient C's put together strong fourth quarter to beat Hornets

Following Boston’s Christmas Day loss to Washington, Al Horford spoke about how there have been too many “my bad” moments for his teammates where they acknowledge a mistake and as a team, that mistake is repeated. 

There would be none of that on Wednesday, and Horford’s play certainly was central as the Celtics put the game away with a strong finish for the 102-91 win over Charlotte. 

Horford had 20 points and 11 rebounds for his first 20-point, 10-rebound game as a member of the Boston Celtics.

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“He was great, making all those threes early,” Stevens said. “It changes your game plan and makes you adjust. To be able to play through him in the high-post and the low-post there at the start of the fourth quarter, was huge.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-91 win over Charlotte. 

 

STARS

Kyrie Irving: The game began with Irving getting his teammates great looks, and ended with him doing what he does best – get buckets. Irving finished with a near double-double,  scoring a team-high 21 points in addition to dishing out eight assists. 

Kemba Walker: Despite the Hornet’s record, Walker continues to play well enough to where he remains on the short list of elite guards in the Eastern Conference. Him and Irving came into the game as the top two scoring guards in the Eastern Conference. And to their credit, both had strong games scoring the ball with Walker leading all scorers with 24 points. 

Al Horford: The Celtics needed to step their collective games up, and Al Horford was once again front-and center in making that happen, doing a little bit of everything. His defense on Dwight Howard was pivotal to Boston getting off to a fast start. And as the game wore on, Horford became a catalyst for the offense whether it be with his passing or forcing the defense to adjust to his play and thus create a good look offensively for a teammate. That said, Horford had a really strong game, finishing with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds for his first 20-point, 10-rebound game as a Celtic.

 

STUDS

Jayson Tatum: A slew of eye-popping, scintillating plays by Tatum helped fuel Boston to yet another hard-earned win by the Celtics.  The Hornets had major problems defending him off the dribble, or contesting his 3-point shot. For the game, he had 18 points and five rebounds.

Terry Rozier: He has been among the NBA’s leaders in minutes played off the bench, and the Celtics got major value in his presence tonight. Rozier’s defense and scoring gave Boston a much-needed lift off the bench with him finishing with 15 points. 

Dwight Howard: He got off to a slow start for Charlotte, but still managed to finish with a strong game with 12 points and 17 rebounds. 

Shane Larkin: The Celtics certainly loved him scoring 11 points off the bench, but his greatest contribution tonight was his defense on Kemba Walker. Yes, Walker definitely got his points but Larkin’s defense made him work harder – a lot harder – than he would have liked and that would prove to be one of the keys to Boston getting the victory with Walker getting 24 points on 9-for-22 shooting.

 

DUDS

Celtics Third quarter play: Boston was by far at their worst in the third quarter, being outscored 31-16 by the Hornets in the quarter that helped erase a 20-point Celtics lead down to just one-point (76-75) going into the fourth.

Celtics pull away in fourth quarter to beat Hornets, 102-91

Celtics pull away in fourth quarter to beat Hornets, 102-91

The Boston Celtics didn’t have their usual second-quarter lulls against Charlotte.

On Wednesday, they saved it for the third quarter. 

Rough quarter aside, the Celtics still managed to deliver in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 102-91 win. 

Boston (28-10) was led by Kyrie Irving who had 21 points while Al Horford had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds with Jayson Tatum chipping in with 18 points and five rebounds.

The Celtics also got a strong game from Terry Rozier off the bench, scoring 15 points to go with four rebounds. 

Former UConn star Kemba Walker had a game-high 24 points and five assists, with Dwight Howard tallying a double-double of 12 points and 17 rebounds for Charlotte (12-22).

The game took a dramatic turn in the third quarter, as Boston’s lead which peaked at 20 points in the second quarter, was down to just 76-75 going into the fourth. 

The Celtics opened the fourth with a 5-0 spurt and while the Hornets stayed within arm’s distance, they could never come up with the big shot or clutch play defensively to swing the game’s momentum in their favor. 

Credit Boston’s non-stars for playing like stars in their limited roles for helping Boston get the win. 

And it wasn’t just scoring or rebounding, either. 

It was little things such as Marcus Smart sealing off Dwight Howard for Al Horford to drive into the lane for a lay-up that put Boston ahead 95-88 late in the game. 

On an earlier possession, Guerschon Yabusele was running the floor next to Rozier who looked him off, froze the defense temporarily, and finished the play off with a lay-up.

Charlotte came within three points (89-86) in the fourth, but the Celtics went on a 13-5 run to finish the game off. 

The first quarter has usually been good to the Boston Celtics, and tonight’s game was no exception. Boston went to work from the game’s outset, opening with an 8-1 run with Irving assisting on all three of Boston’s made baskets. 

Boston continued to pull away in the first quarter and led 28-16. 

The Celtics continued to pull away in the second quarter, a surprising development considering how bad Boston has been in the second quarter of games. 

They came into tonight’s game ranked dead-last in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring at 24.0 points per game. 

Boston had that with just under five minutes to play in the second quarter, reaching that mark with a 3-pointer from Shane Larkin.

It was fitting when you consider how well Boston absolutely torched the Hornets from 3-point range. Boston was 11-for-18 on 3’s which puts them well on their way to setting a new season high in made 3s which this season, stands at 17. 

 Irving led all Celtics with 12 points at the half, with Horford trending towards a double-double with 11 points and five rebounds. Shane Larkin gave Boston a nice spark off the bench with nine points. 

Boston led 60-44 at the half.

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