Celtics

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving didn’t say much following Boston’s 124-117 loss at Charlotte. 

But on Saturday, Irving delivered a stinging rebuke of his teammates as well as a not-so-subtle dig at the coaching staff in their approach to defending Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker. 

“The game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Irving told reporters. “We took our foot off the gas pedal; it got to a five-point game, momentum shifted from there.”

He was then asked what does the team talk about following a game like this, one in which the Celtics had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter only to allow the Hornets to close out the game with a 30-5 run. 

“Being more mature down the stretch,” Irving said. 

To see Boston lose a game in this fashion isn’t all that surprising when you consider one of the stronger character traits of this team is their ability to let huge leads go to the point where they eventually result in a loss. 

Remember, this is the same Celtics team that blew a 28-point lead AT HOME to the Los Angeles Clippers which came right after blowing another double-digit lead at home to the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers. 

But that’s in the past, something that has little impact on the present … until you have games like the one we saw Saturday night when it seems the mental toughness that should be developing in losing games just isn’t there. 

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As Irving pointed out, the Celtics were playing the Hornets without some key players in the lineup. 

Al Horford was resting his sore knee while Aron Baynes (foot) and Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) were out with injuries

Replacing Horford in the starting lineup was rookie Robert Williams III, but he left shortly before the half after taking a hard spill to the floor. He was unable to return after team officials determined he had suffered a lower back contusion. 

“Judge us when we have our full lineup,” Irving said. “But obviously when we come out and play like this with a bunch of young guys down the stretch, figuring things out … things are bound to happen but there’s no excuses.”

The difference-maker in the game was the play of Charlotte’s Kemba Walker who tallied a near triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Marcus Smart would have been the primary defender on him, but Smart was on the bench after committing a series of offensive fouls. 

And while Jayson Tatum’s length does him well when it comes to defense, Walker’s ball-handling and ability to create space off the dribble was too much for Tatum and the Celtics to handle with Walker tallying 18 of his 36 points in the fourth. 

“It’s one-on-one,” Irving said. “Down the stretch, I try to come in and help as much as possible. We should have probably trapped him more like every other team does in the league but we didn’t. He torches us every time we play them so it’s no surprise.”

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NBA Rumors: Sixers have 'interest' in Al Horford and potential Celtics target

NBA Rumors: Sixers have 'interest' in Al Horford and potential Celtics target

The Boston Celtics' rivalry with the Philadelphia 76ers may spill over into the summer.

The Sixers have "some level of interest" in pending free agents Al Horford, Malcolm Brogdon and Danny Green, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey reported Monday.

Horford reportedly wants to sign with a contender after declining his player option in Boston, and watching him go to a direct Eastern Conference competitor would be a tough blow for the Celtics. But the 33-year-old is an intriguing option for a Philly squad that could use frontcourt depth alongside Joel Embiid.

The Celtics will have cap space after Horford's departure, and there are reports they could pursue Brogdon in the restricted free agent market. The Milwaukee Bucks point guard is a polished floor general who could help fill Kyrie Irving's (and potentially Terry Rozier's) void at ballhandler.

It appears Boston may compete with Philly for Brogdon, too, and even Green could be a possibility for the C's as a mid-tier contract to fill out their depth.

It's no surprise the Celtics and Sixers are pursuing similar players; Philly hopes to re-sign both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris in free agency, but if one or both leave -- like Irving and Horford with Boston -- it will need to add talent via free agency or trade to stay competitive in a tough Eastern Conference.

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Larry Bird receives lifetime achievement award at 2019 NBA Awards

Larry Bird receives lifetime achievement award at 2019 NBA Awards

The Magic-Bird rivalry had another moment in the spotlight on Monday at the 2019 NBA Awards.

Both Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson were honored with the lifetime achievement awards by the NBA.

The awards were absolutely deserved by both players. The duo reignited the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers rivalry in the 1980s and from 1980-88, either Bird's Celtics or Johnson's Lakers were in the NBA Finals, and they squared off in three series. And in that time span, either the Celtics or Lakers captured eight of the nine NBA titles, which is absolutely remarkable.

Bird was one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. He averaged 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game over the course of his 13-year career with the Celtics. He is top-five for the team in most major statistical categories including points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. He truly was a game changer and had many moments of greatness throughout his career.

And after his playing career was over, Bird became a very good head coach with the Indiana Pacers and later ran their front office. He won a Coach of the Year in his first season with the Pacers (1998) and also took home the NBA Executive of the Year in 2012.

Bird is simply one of the greatest basketball players, and minds, that the sport has ever seen. Between his statistical prowess, his three titles, two Finals MVPs, three NBA MVPs, and his resume as a coach and front office executive, it's easy to see why the NBA wanted to honor him. And doing it along with his long-time rival, Johnson, just made the moment sweeter for the highly accomplished and revolutionary duo.

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