Celtics

Kyrie Irving details "very helpful" plane ride chat with Brad Stevens

Kyrie Irving details "very helpful" plane ride chat with Brad Stevens

Leave it to a cross-country plane ride for the Boston Celtics to quell some of their turbulence.

The Celtics stunned the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on Tuesday night, handing the Dubs their worst home loss in the Steve Kerr era. Kyrie Irving played lose and free, racking up 19 points and a game-high 11 assists in Boston's 128-95 win.

So, how did the C's manage to flip the switch after losing five of their previous six games? Irving's lengthy conversation with head coach Brad Stevens on the plane ride to San Francisco certainly helped.

"We sat and talked some (Monday) and then on the plane for a long time," Stevens said before Tuesday's game, via the Boston Herald.

That discussion -- and others over the last few days -- apparently was therapeutic for Irving, who was able to air out his feelings in private rather than in front of cameras.

"Talking with Brad was very helpful, talking with (Celtics president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) was very helpful, and just expressing myself rather than keeping it all in,” Irving said after Tuesday's game, as aired on NBC Sports Boston. “That made it very easy to just go out and just have fun playing basketball.”

Irving wasn't alone. By his account, the C's used their several hours in the sky to get back on the same page.

"That long plane ride helped us out. I’ll just say that,” Irving added. “That long plane ride helped us out. We needed it, we needed it. It was just we were going to get to a point where we were just going to get tired of fighting each other, fighting the outside world.

"And it doesn’t even really matter. So we just wanted to come out here and just play basketball. This is our sanctuary. And we have to do everything to protect it. We can’t let anybody infiltrate it.”

For a player who recently has felt exasperated with the media, an eight-day, four-game West Coast swing could be just what the doctor ordered. Tuesday's rout of the defending champions certainly wasn't a cure-all, but Boston's season-high 38 assists Tuesday night suggests healthier days may be ahead.

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Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

Celtics' Kemba Walker on Jayson Tatum's bounce-back game: 'There'll be a lot more big games for that guy'

BOSTON -- The final numbers for Jayson Tatum in Boston’s 140-133 win over Washington - 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting - are not going to inspire any “M-V-P” chants or anything like that. 

“Better than one-for-eighteen,” said a grinning Tatum, referring to the horrendous shooting performance he had in Boston’s win over Dallas on Monday. 

Tatum has had some off nights shooting this season, but the woeful performance against Dallas was historically bad. It was only the ninth time in NBA history that a player shot that poorly while taking 18 shots from the field. 

Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, who knows Tatum better than anyone else in the NBA, said going into the game Wednesday night that the third-year forward was going to have a solid bounce-back performance. 

Beal said he anticipated Tatum would come out, “gunning. I know it.”

He added, “He forgot about that game and is looking forward to this one.”

He was right. 

Tatum didn’t take long to get it going offensively against the Wizards (2-7), scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone on 5-for-9 shooting from the field. 

Hitting up the practice facility within hours of the Mavericks game on Monday was part of Tatum’s put-that-one-behind-me program that as we saw against Washington on Wednesday, worked pretty well. 

When asked why he went to the practice facility right after the Dallas game, Tatum replied, “Just see some shots go in, really. Try to get my mind off the game and get back in a rhythm.”

Kemba Walker said he spoke with Tatum shortly before the game. 

“I told him, ‘You know, every night is not going to be the best night. It’s all about the bounce back,’” Walker recalled. “And he bounced back tonight. It was a huge game; a big game from him.”

It was important not only for the Celtics to continue on their winning ways, but also for Tatum’s growth into someone that many believe will eventually rank among the best in the NBA. 

“He’s a special talent,” Walker said. “I’m excited [about] the way he handled tonight’s game.”

Beal echoed similar sentiments about his fellow St. Louis native who also attended the same high school (Chaminade College Prep) as Beal years later.

“He’s a star, man; a star in the making,” Beal, who dropped 44 points on the Celtics, said of Tatum. “It’s amazing to be a part of his life, to see him grow every year to where he is now.”

The 26-year-old Beal has been an All-Star each of the last two seasons, so he knows all too well how challenging it can be to make that leap from being a good player, which is where Tatum is now, to being an All-Star, which Tatum has not been coy about as being one of his many goals. 

“He’s going to continue to get better. He’s going to hit bumps in the road,” Beal said. “He’s going to go through adversity. That’s just going to make him better and stronger.”

And seeing him up close now, Walker has gained a greater appreciation for not just Tatum’s talent but the amount of time he puts into his game to get better. 

“From his first season, watching from afar, and now being his teammate, I love the way he works on off days to improve his game,” Walker said. “We need that kid; we need him a lot. We need him to score big points for us and we need him to take on those challenges. There’ll be a lot more big games for that guy.”

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Against Isaiah Thomas, it's Kemba Walker's time to be the Celtics' 4th-quarter hero

Against Isaiah Thomas, it's Kemba Walker's time to be the Celtics' 4th-quarter hero

BOSTON — Kemba Walker remembers watching the Isaiah Thomas-era Celtics from afar. He marveled at the way Thomas' big fourth quarters used to make the Garden roar. He watched Boston's playoff surge in the 2017 playoffs and wondered what it felt like to play on that sort of stage.

How crazy, then, was it to watch Walker tuck behind an Enes Kanter screen and splash a crunch-time 3-pointer over Thomas to seal Boston’s 140-133 triumph over the visiting Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

The Celtics have now won nine in a row. That’s two games longer than any win streak Walker ever experienced in Charlotte. Boston owns the NBA’s best record at 9-1 as it braces for a five-game trip that ought to tell us a lot more about where exactly this team sits in among the league’s elite.

The Celtics have had to patch together some ugly wins early this season and the only constant has been Walker figuring out a way to dump in a bunch of points, particularly in key spots.

Walker is 17th in the NBA in scoring while averaging 25 points per game but he’s fifth in second-half scoring, putting up 16.4 points per game, all while shooting 50 percent from the field and 55.9 percent beyond the 3-point arc after the intermission. He’s sixth in fourth-quarter scoring at 8.1 points per game but rises to No. 1 in the league when you judge based on per-100 possession production (57.9 points per 100 possessions).

No need to make comparisons here. Kardiac Kemba isn’t producing at King in the Fourth level production, but he’s damn good. The Celtics have had an embarrassment of riches in terms of fourth-quarter producers in recent seasons from Thomas to Kyrie Irving to Walker.

It’s why Marcus Smart laughs and declares himself spoiled when asked about all the clutch players he’s had alongside him in Boston’s backcourt.

"I’ve been lucky. I’ve been here for all three of them,” said Smart. "Those guys, it’s a different mindset when the fourth quarter hits.

"It’s kinda like when you know you’ve got to do something. Your mom’s coming home and you ain’t done the dishes so you had to run. That’s how it is in the fourth quarter. Something just clicks like, ‘Oh, we gotta go, it’s time to turn it on.’"

Walker scored 11 third-quarter points Wednesday then went cold for a stretch in the fourth. The late 3-pointer was his only make of the frame and yet the Celtics needed it to bury these pesky but defense-averse Wizards.

What is it about key moments that allows Walker to shine brightest?

“Just playing the game. Just the way the game is going sometimes, Brad is just calling my number,” said Walker. "Whenever he’s calling the plays for me, whatever’s my play, I’m just looking to be aggressive, make the right play. But my teammates do such a great job kind of stretching, getting me open, holding the screens. They know I like to pull up off the screens so they do a great job of just getting me open.”

Walker finished with a team-high 25 points on 8-of-17 shooting but was just one of seven players in double figures for scoring. He spent much of his postgame press conference gushing about the way others stepped up, including Boston’s injury-thinned bench.

A west coast trip awaits. There’s going to be bumps in the road, at least more than Boston has encountered thus far. But Walker is ready for it.

"We’re going to learn a lot, man,” said Walker. "When you go on road trips is when adversity starts to hit, fatigue starts to set in, guys want to get back home. Those trips are long. But we’re going to learn a lot about each other.

“Hopefully when adversity does hit, we’re going to see how we handle it. That’s what’s the most important thing. For me, I just want to keep this team together as much as possible. This is a huge stretch for us, really important, and it’s gonna show what we’re made of.”

Walker knows there’s going to be games where, like Thomas, he’s going to have to step up and lead this team. He’s going to have to shoulder the load.

He’s been watching from afar and he’s ready for those moments, and so much more.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.