PHILADELPHIA — Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving said the team needs "more focus and discipline” if it desires to flip the proverbial playoff switch but expressed hope that the team could improve those areas over the final 11 games.
Irving then suggested that he plans to sit out some games late in the regular season with the rigors of the postseason looming.
"I’m definitely taking some games off before the playoffs,” Irving said at Boston’s morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. "Makes no sense, the emphasis on these regular games, when you’re gearing up for some battles coming in the playoffs.”
While downplaying the significance of Wednesday’s tilt with the Philadelphia 76ers (“It’s just another game”) and suggesting that seeding doesn’t matter for Boston (“As long as we get [to the playoffs], I’m happy”), Irving was asked if a playoff mindset had already set in for the Celtics.
“No. We need more focus and discipline in order for that switch to be turned on,” said Irving. "So, we have yet to figure out what that switch is for us going into the postseason, but that’s why we have 11 games left.”
The Celtics have endured some notable focus lapses lately, including at the end of the third quarter against Denver on Monday. Just how far away are the Celtics from figuring it out?
“We’ll see,” answered Irving, offering the same response he did when asked if the team might rally together out west before Boston’s famed flight out west.
The Celtics entered Wednesday trending heavily towards earning the No. 4 or 5 spot in the East, which would almost certainly set up a matchup with the Indiana Pacers. According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Celtics had only a 13.3 percent chance at the No. 3 seed, compared to a 51.7 percent shot at No. 4.
A win Wednesday over Philadelphia could open the door for a surge to No. 3, but some fans have wondered if the fourth seed — and the possibility of matching up with Milwaukee instead of Toronto in Round 2 — might actually be better for the Celtics.
Regardless, Boston needs to be playing inspired basketball when the playoffs arrive. Irving was asked how his Cleveland Cavaliers teams of years past were able to routinely flip the switch.
"I think that the best thing we had going in that aspect is experience,” said Irving. "So, like, the switch — we know what that switch is. This team doesn’t yet.
"The best thing for us is experience. So, guys have a year of experience and I think we’ve given ourselves too much credit. What that switch is, championship-level basketball, only a few people know what that switch is. It takes time to develop it, it takes experience with each other. And we’ve tried to make up as much ground in the last year and a half as we could.”
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