Celtics

Kyrie Irving holds the key to getting the swerving-off-course Celtics back on the right track

Kyrie Irving holds the key to getting the swerving-off-course Celtics back on the right track

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics spent more time than usual inside the locker room following their 115-96 drubbing at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. 

While the particulars of what was said remain a mystery, there’s one thing that came through with clarity - everyone inside that locker room has be better. 

A better player; a better teammate; a better leader; better at doing whatever role they are tasked with. 

And while it is indeed an across-the-board problem, there’s no denying who has to be the first to make that change and make it soon - Kyrie Irving. 

He is Boston’s best player, the one everyone looks to for leadership both on the floor and inside the locker room. 

Boston (43-31) has now lost four in a row, the team’s longest losing streak of the season. 

They have given up at least 114 points in seven straight games, something that last happened to a Celtics team before any of the current Celtics - or their head coach Brad Stevens - was born. 

Irving reminded us all how hard it can be to win in the NBA, and how difficult it can be to “accomplish something great.”

And while there may be a million opinions outside the Celtics locker room, Irving readily admits that he has to be better in a number of areas. 

“For me my focus is figuring out, the guys I have in my locker room, how to get the best out of them and them getting the best out of me,” Irving said. “It’s been hard but it’s a challenge worth fighting for because the end result is standing on that (championship) stage.”

Of course, Irving is the lone Celtics player who has won an NBA title besides Baynes, although Irving did it as a starter while Baynes, then with San Antonio, was a lightly used reserve.

And having played both for a team that won a title (Cleveland) and one that's in pursuit of one (Boston), there are indeed some similarities. 

But not many. 

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 “This is just a new challenge," Irving said. "We had a luxury of relying on experience (in Cleveland). Here we’re building something great every single day and that’s the experience we get. We had guys (in Cleveland) that had been on that stage, lost on that stage, won on that stage. Here, we’re trying to build great championship habits. And that takes time and takes a commitment.

Irving added, “But it starts with me. I will do my best to keep communicating as best I can and get the most out of these guys because they deserve it.”

And that communication that Irving speaks about … he knows it too is something that he has to do a better job at going forward. 

“I’m used to gearing up for something bigger than myself around this time and what it takes,” Irving said. “I can do a better job of communicating that to my teammates. And being a better listener, figuring out the best way to communicate with those guys, that point, this point in the season … getting ready for wars and battles.” 

And while the challenge of figuring all this out and making the most of a season that began with such promise is indeed difficult, Irving says he’s all-in with his focus on the big picture. 

“For us we’re still developing as a team, a whole season of doing so,” Irving said. “But there’s a light at the end of all this. That’s probably where my patience will always lay, knowing something’s beyond this, something … this challenge is happening for a reason and I have to believe that.”

He added, “It hasn’t looked pretty all the time, but we’ve always tried to find a way to figure it out and get the most out of each other. It starts with me and it trickles down to the rest of our leaders on this team. You have to be committed and it starts with me." 

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And the latest star trying to dunk on Aron Baynes will be ...

And the latest star trying to dunk on Aron Baynes will be ...

BOSTON -- We don’t know when it’ll happen, but we know it’s happening.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to take off from somewhere outside of the paint for a dunk.

He’s going to go into sky-high mode, soaring through the air with the grace and size of condor only to have Boston’s Aron Baynes standing between him and yet another above-the-rim highlight reel.

In a playoff series that will surely have its share of subplots and twists throughout, here’s one more.

When will Antetokounmpo try and dunk on Aron Baynes?

Because we know as much as Antetokounmpo soars high and above most defenders with ease, Baynes isn’t one to back down or step aside so you can posterize him with a powerful jam which has become almost a given every night when he's on the floor.

“I don’t know; it must be the hair,” quipped Baynes in an earlier interview with NBC Sports Boston. “They don’t like my haircut; that’s what it is.”

But being more serious, Baynes added, “My job is to make their shot attempt as hard as possible. That’s not happening if I’m standing there watching them go off and dunk it. I try to get there even if I’m out of position, try to get my body in the right place to make it that bit tougher.”

In a more recent interview with NBC Sports Boston during Boston’s first-round series against the Pacers, Baynes said he doesn’t put a ton of planning into how he plans to defend players who try and dunk on him.

“I don’t really think much about it when I’m out there,” Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “I just know I got a job to do, just like those guys have a job to do. It’s always fun!”

And not easy for either to get what they want during the inevitable mid-air collision.

“They see me as a challenge; I see them as a challenge,” Baynes said. “We try and meet up top and see how it goes.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fascia) out Games 1 and 2 for Bucks

Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fascia) out Games 1 and 2 for Bucks

BOSTON -- Misery loves company, right?

The Boston Celtics won’t be alone in their second-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks when it comes to beginning it without one of their top guards.

Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, sidelined with torn plantar fascia injury suffered last month, has been ruled out for Games 1 and 2 of the Bucks’ Conference semi-final matchup against the Celtics.

Even without Brogdon, the Bucks (60-22) still managed to finish the regular season with the best record in the NBA and with that, home court advantage as long as they are in the playoffs.

As expected, the Bucks cruised through their first-round series with Detroit which ended with a four-game sweep of the Pistons.

However, Milwaukee is eager to get Brogdon back on the floor against the Celtics in large part because of his ability to excel at both ends of the floor.

Having him available provides the Bucks with another defensive body that can make Kyrie Irving work harder for his shots than he would otherwise.

In addition, Brogdon has the ability on offense to impact the game on multiple levels and has been a tough cover for the Celtics in past years.

The 2017 NBA Rookie Of the Year averaged a career-high 15.6 points this past season.

But just as significant, he became only the eighth player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field (50.5 percent), 40 percent on 3’s (42.6 percent) and 90 percent (92.8) from the free throw line.

The Bucks have indicated that he will be evaluated again prior to Game 3.

The outlook isn’t nearly as optimistic for one of Boston’s top guards, Marcus Smart, who will also be out for the start of the Conference Semifinals.

Unlike Brogdon, Smart (torn oblique) is considered a long shot to return to action during this series and if he did, it likely wouldn’t be until Game 6 or 7 and that would be an extremely optimistic/hopeful timeline.

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