BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving has been enjoying arguably his best season in the NBA, scoring, dishing and defending at a level we’ve never seen from him with this kind of consistency.
But Irving will be the first to acknowledge that he’s not perfect and will have nights when he doesn’t shoot the ball as well as he would like.
Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers was indeed one of those games for Irving whose struggles in many ways mirrored the play of the Celtics as a team, losing 129-128 to the Lakers on a buzzer-beating jumper from ex-Celtic guard Rajon Rondo.
“I was sick,” said Jayson Tatum when asked about how he felt when Rondo corralled a loose ball and drained the game-winner with no time left.
And while there were several factors that contributed to Boston’s loss which snapped a five-game winning streak, it’s hard to look past the shooting struggles of Irving despite a his strong showing in the latter stages of the game.
“It was one of those games where you want to play better,” said Irving who had a team-high 24 points but did so on 6-for-21 shooting from the field.
☘️LAKERS 129, CELTICS 128
Even with Irving struggling, the Celtics still had a chance to salvage the game with a victory and Irving’s play in the fourth quarter was key.
Irving had 11 of his 24 points in the fourth, including a driving bank shot with 11.5 seconds to play that put Boston on top 128-127.
On the ensuing Lakers possession, Brandon Ingram drove into the lane and had his shot blocked by Al Horford. The loose ball found its way into the hands of Rondo who drained the game-winning shot from 20-feet out as time expired.
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Disappointed with the outcome obviously, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the game’s ending was indicative of the kind of night it was for his team.
“I thought the basketball gods rewarded the right team,” Stevens said. “I hate to say that, but we had a chance to wrap that game up with a rebound. But that was kind of the whole night.”
Especially for Irving who missed 15 of his first 18 shots but made all three of his field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.
A six-time All-Star, Irving has set a ridiculously high standard for excellence with his play. That makes nights like the one he experienced on Thursday stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Irving has been dealing with an assortment of injuries, but it’s clear that no one is using that as an excuse or justification for his struggles on Thursday night.
“Just one of those nights, you know?” Stevens said. “We all expect him to put on the cape every night and it’s pretty impressive that on a night where he struggles, in the last six minutes of the game he can do what he did and make the shots he made.”
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