Celtics

Paul Pierce: Kyrie Irving 'can impact this team in a major way'

Paul Pierce: Kyrie Irving 'can impact this team in a major way'

BOSTON – It took more than a decade for Paul Pierce to win an NBA title in Boston.
 
But he will be the first to tell you that the wait was worth it.
 
He knows better than most how special it is to win a championship in this title-starved city, to be the go-to man for a team in pursuit of that oh-so-elusive Larry O’Brien trophy.
 
Which is why you can count Pierce among those who believe that new Celtic Kyrie Irving is more than ready to step into those shoes as Boston’s main guy and do what hasn’t been done since the days when Pierce wore Celtics Green – win an NBA title.

LISTEN TO THE CELTICS TALK PODCAST WITH PAUL PIERCE

“Kyrie can impact this team in a major way,” Pierce said in an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with CSN’s A. Sherrod Blakely. “You saw what Isaiah Thomas was able to do. A lot of people, even though Isaiah averaged more points, a lot of people believe Kyrie is a better scorer.”
 
Thomas, who was part of the trade with Cleveland that sent Irving to Boston, ranked third in the NBA in scoring last season with a 28.9 points per game average – tops among all players in the East.
 
Irving is also coming off a banner season in which he posted career highs in several categories, including points (25.2), field goal percentage (.473) and free throw shooting percentage (.905).
 
Cavs general manager Koby Altman had nothing but praise for Irving earlier this month during Cleveland’s introduction of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic at the team’s practice facility.
 
“He (Irving) made tremendous contributions to this franchise and this city,” Altman said. “He was here six years and he became a champion here and he helped us win a championship in spectacular fashion. And so, I think we owe him a thank you and we owe him a debt of gratitude and we'll always be thankful for his exciting years with the Cavaliers.”
 
Making Irving’s play even more impressive was how he was able to stand out among the best in the NBA, despite playing alongside LeBron James who is widely considered the best player on the planet.
 
 “If you can average 25 points, 26 points and you got LeBron James on your team, that’s pretty impressive,” Pierce said.
 
With Cleveland, James was often the primary facilitator while Irving played off the ball  more but with the ball in hand, Irving frequently took his defender off the dribble with drives into the lane which was a major factor in his 8.3 points scored in the paint per game which according to nba.com/stats, ranked 10th among all guards in the NBA last season.
 
But no James means that the Celtics offense will often begin with Irving as the initiator, a role that will test the balancing act all great scorers have between creating their own shot versus creating shots for others.
 
He averaged 5.8 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.32 which ranked seventh among all NBA guards who appeared in as many games (72) last season as Irving.
 
In Boston, Irving joins a team with a pair of fellow All-Stars (Al Horford and Gordon Hayward) who while talented, aren’t as explosive off the dribble as the 25-year-old Irving who has already been named to four All-Star teams.
 
“He’s going to be the guy,” Pierce said. “He has championship experience. He’s still young and he’s got some other guys to play with.”
 
In addition to Horford and Hayward, Irving will also be instrumental in leading Boston’s next wave of impact players that will likely be led by second-year wing player Jaylen Brown as well as rookie Jayson Tatum who was selected by Boston with the third overall pick in last June’s NBA draft.
 
As talented as Brown and Tatum are, they will benefit greatly from the wisdom and guidance of a proven veteran like Irving who is still relatively young.
 
“He was ready for this type of role, to be the lead guy,” Pierce said. “He’s learned a lot under LeBron’s tutelage. He’s ready to share that with his teammates and possibly bring another championship to Boston.”

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Bucks fans' chant suggests they're pretty excited to face Celtics

Bucks fans' chant suggests they're pretty excited to face Celtics

As the Milwaukee Bucks put the finishing touches on a first-round sweep, their fans were already looking ahead.

The Bucks officially set up a second-round NBA playoff series with the Boston Celtics by beating the Pistons in Detroit on Monday night. And before that game even finished, fans at a Game 4 watch party in Milwaukee had the C's on their minds.

This is a perfect revenge matchup for the Bucks after Boston ousted them in the first round last season. Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo admitted as much Monday night after his team's series-clinching win.

But here's a quick warning for Bucks fans: Be careful what you wish for. The Celtics are riding high off a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers, and the last time another fanbase expressed its desire to play a Boston team was New York Yankees fans ahead of the 2018 American League Division Series. And we all know how that ended.

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Celtics to face Bucks in second round of the NBA playoffs

Celtics to face Bucks in second round of the NBA playoffs

To nobody's surprise, the Boston Celtics are going to play the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Bucks, the East's No. 1 seed, had the best record in the NBA last season (60-22) and faced little resistance in their first-round matchup. They easily swept the Detroit Pistons in four games. The Pistons' star player, Blake Griffin, was far from healthy, and that played a role in the Bucks' series win.

This is the second year in a row that the Celtics will play the Bucks in the playoffs. Last year, the No. 2 seeded Celtics defeated the Bucks in a series that spanned seven games. The home team won every game in that series.

The Bucks will be a tough opponent for the Celtics. Potential league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is a matchup nightmare, and he averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game during the regular season. And around him, the Bucks have solid depth.

In their regular season series, the Celtics posted only a 1-2 record against the Bucks, winning their first meeting in November but coming up just short in their other two games. Antetokounmpo averaged 31 points per game against the Celtics, so slowing him down will be key to finding success in the series.

The Celtics will open on the road in this series, as the first two games will be in Milwaukee. The Celtics will have to ensure that they get off to a solid start and continue to fare well on the road, something they struggled to do last postseason (1-7 record in eight road games, 0-3 in Milwaukee).

BLAKELY: Celtics vs. Bucks playoff history>>>

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