Celtics

Kyrie Irving vents about Jamal Murray's 'B.S.' move

Kyrie Irving vents about Jamal Murray's 'B.S.' move

DENVER — As Jamal Murray’s 30-foot pull-up slammed off the front rim, denying the Denver Nuggets guard’s last gasp for a 50-point night, Kyrie Irving stood with hands on his knees glaring in the direction of the 21-year-old sharpshooter.

And as the ball bounced next to Irving, Boston’s All-Star guard angrily swallowed the ball in his arm and started in the direction of Murray. But the court soon crowded as Murray’s teammates rushed to celebrate his career night and Irving had to settle for lodging a vocal complaint from afar.

Murray put together a mesmerizing evening, scoring a career-high 48 points on 19-of-30 shooting, not only winning a head-to-head scoring duel with Irving (31 points on 13-of-17 shooting) but helping the Nuggets emerge with a 115-107 triumph.

But that final shot really irked Irving, who offered a dismissive wave in Murray’s direction then turned and launched the game ball about 50 rows deep into the crowd at Pepsi Center.

Pity the ballboy that had to go hunt for Murray’s keepsake.

“I mean, what kind of competitor wouldn’t it bother?” Irving said after dressing quick following Boston’s loss. “I understand if we fouled him, going to the free-throw line. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. Obviously, I was pissed at the game, but it’s time to decompress and move on. Congratulations to him having 48 points. He did it in a great fashion against us. Our defense has to be better especially against a player like that in the pick-and-roll. He was the primary concern tonight and he made us pay in certain instances of making some tough shots and some tough layups. 

NUGGETS 115, CELTICS 107


"But the ball deserves to go in the crowd after a bulls—— move like that. So I threw it in the crowd.”

That’s the sort of fire the Celtics could have used earlier in the night when Murray was singlehandedly keeping the Nuggets afloat. Not that much of anything seemed to work against Murray.

Denver’s third-year guard scored 14 first-quarter points helping the Nuggets stay in the game after Boston’s offense came out scorching while building an 18-point lead. Then Murray, the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft, exploded for 19 points in the final frame, stiff-arming Boston’s rally attempts.

Every time it seemed like Murray’s gas gauge had dipped below empty, he somehow summoned the energy to blow past another Boston defender and will home a tough finish at the hoop. 

The only thing that sullied his night was his gunning for the 50-point plateau, missing a layup after dribbling from the other end of the floor with under 20 seconds to go, then launching the 3-pointer at the buzzer after dribbling out the clock.

"That was just a fun game. I was having a lot of fun. I think my emotion took over, as it normally does when I get going like that,” said Murray. "No disrespect to the Boston organization, the Boston fans for that last shot. I just had it in my mind I was going for 50. 

"I think everybody understood that's what I was trying to do. I really didn't mean no disrespect. I know half the team over there, so no hard feelings. It was just a fun game and my emotions took over.”

NUGGETS 115, CELTICS 107


Inside the Celtics’ locker room, the shot didn’t sit well and veterans like Irving and Marcus Morris were clearly irked.

"I know him personally, so I’m not gonna sit up here and badger him. It was definitely unprofessional,” said Morris. "If I was out there, I probably would have did something. Definitely unprofessional. But he’s a young player, he’ll learn later down the road, I guess.”

Jaylen Brown wasn’t quite as bothered but admitted it didn’t look great for Murray.

"At that point, the game was over and we lost. At the end of the day, whether people get frustrated at it or not, I can see both sides,” said Brown. "The game was over, the dude had a hell of a night. I feel like it was a little bit disrespectful but, at the same time, let him do him. What am I going to do?”

The Celtics spent much of the fourth quarter trying to quiet Murray down but nothing worked, not even steady doses of Brown and Marcus Smart in hopes of smothering his drives.

When Murray wasn’t finishing tough layups, he was hitting 3-pointers and firing fictional arrows as fans roared in delight.

"We sent two [defenders] at him most of that time in the fourth. By then he’s just rolling so much,” said coach Brad Stevens. "I thought he got a couple of easy ones that made him feel good right out of the gate. He had been struggling shooting the 3 coming into the game, at least versus his level. And we left him early.

“He had that 10-point run in the first half when we were really scoring the ball. And from that point on he was just lights out. I mean, he was tremendous. We tried a lot of different things. None of them worked. He deserves credit. That was a heck of a performance.”

With Irving clearly locked in as well, Murray only seemed to feed off the offensive battle that ensued.

"It's a lot of fun to go against him, especially when you're both making shots and you get to come up with the W,” said Murray. Asked to elaborate on what he learned going against Irving, Murray added, " I wasn't thinking about learning. I only went to school for a year. I was only thinking about putting the ball in the basket. That's what I was taught to do. It was a really fun game. He's a hell of a matchup. I think there was a point where we were both scoring so much back and forth, we just both stood at the 3-point line, like, both tired. … My legs are killing me.”

For the Celtics, the bigger issue than Murray’s last-second shot is an 0-2 start to a road trip that still has tough stops in Utah and Portland. The team does get two days to recover before opening a back-to-back in Phoenix.

Brown doesn’t want his teammates to linger on Monday’s game.

"Nah. Shake it off. Get to the next game,” said Brown. "Just keep the same mentality. Stay focused, stay locked in. Keep chiseling away and keep moving forward. You don't have time to contemplate the last one, so you have to keep going."

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Jayson Tatum puts a positive spin on Anthony Davis trade rumors

Jayson Tatum puts a positive spin on Anthony Davis trade rumors

Jayson Tatum is in the thick of the NBA playoffs, so you wouldn't blame him for being annoyed by talk of trade rumors.

But instead, the Boston Celtics forward is viewing the chatter as a positive.

Tatum, who reportedly was discussed "extensively" in trade talks between the Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans involving superstar Anthony Davis ahead of the NBA trade deadline, recently explained his mindset about those developments to The New York Times' Sopan Deb.

"Trade rumors don’t bother me,” Tatum told Deb. “They’re talking about trading me for guys like Anthony Davis. So, I mean, I must be doing something pretty well."

Tatum was asked again if the trade rumors have gotten to him, but insisted he's unfazed.

"I love the game of basketball," he added. "Being traded is part of the game. I’ll play for whomever. It’s something I can’t control."

The 21-year-old has been asked similar questions before and supplied similar answers. Earlier this year, he insisted he doesn't take it personally that the Celtics would consider shipping their 2017 No. 3 draft pick out of town to land a bigger star, later adding that it's "good to be wanted."

Whether Tatum actually believes that or is just saying the right things is unclear, but his play on the court proves he's certainly not distracted by any trade drama: Tatum dropped 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting in Game 2 and made several key plays down the stretch to lift Boston to a 99-91 win over the Indiana Pacers.

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What regular season? It's all about the playoffs for these Celtics

What regular season? It's all about the playoffs for these Celtics

INDIANAPOLIS -- If the Boston Celtics had their way, this past regular season would be like those amnesia-themed soap opera storylines that just get dreamed away, as if they never happened. 

Pegged to finish first in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics had to finish the season strong just to get home court in the first round. 

Never happened. 

The once-stout defense that returned all the core players from last season’s squad got progressively worse as the season went on, only to level out in the final month or so. 

Nope. That didn’t happen either.

Players struggled to adapt to different roles instead of just rolling along and racking up a ton of wins. 

No idea where that came from.

Boston’s success in the postseason isn’t as much about flipping a switch, but instead starting anew without paying any attention to the issues and problems that resulted in a disappointing regular season. 

The Celtics hope to keep the dream alive Friday night in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series with the Indiana Pacers, a series in which Boston has jumped out to a 2-0 series lead. 

After a regular season to forget, the Celtics have done their part to keep the past in the past with a clear and undeniable focus on the playoffs -- a process that began well before the postseason.

“In a lot of ways it was not an easy year,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And yet we still managed to be a reasonable team that achieved some things.”

He’s right. 

Kyrie Irving is an elite scorer, and has been ever since he came into the league. 

But this season, he showed the ability to expand his game in ways few envisioned, especially on defense. 

He will never be confused with being a defensive stopper, but there’s no question Irving is in a better place at that end of the floor than we saw last season or prior to that in Cleveland. 

Irving had a defensive rating of 74.2 in Boston’s Game 1 win over the Pacers, which was tops among all guards who played at least 20 minutes. 

For most of this season, he has ranked among the team leaders in charges taken as well as deflections. 

Gordon Hayward has not only embraced his "sixth man" role on the team but also has steadily distanced himself from that gruesome ankle injury suffered in 2017, to the point where all the talk about him focuses on his play and not the injury. 

Boston’s bench has seen players come and go this season into and out of the starting lineup, but the group as a whole had been strong most of the season. 

The Celtics’ second unit allowed the fewest bench points per game (34.2) in the NBA while being ranked ninth in bench scoring (39.3 points per game).

In the playoffs, when rotations are shortened and the impact of the bench is lessened, we have seen a precipitous dip, as the numbers for Boston’s bench are down across the board. 

But that doesn’t diminish the impact that players off the bench like Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris have meant to this series.

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It was Morris’ 20-point performance in Game 1 that proved critical to Boston’s 84-74 win. 

And it was solid play by Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward in the second half of Boston’s Game 2 win that helped Boston rally for a 99-91 win

Collectively, it has led to the Celtics being where they thought they would be in this first-round series, up two-zip heading into Game 3 on the road. 

“Not what we had hoped, not what the outside had hoped but I think that (end of the regular season) gave us a reset,” Stevens said. “I think our guys are all excited about that.”

Because more than anything, Boston’s reset gives this team a chance to make the kind of playoff run that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. 

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