Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Scorer like Kyrie 'a luxury' for Celtics

Stars, studs and duds: Scorer like Kyrie 'a luxury' for Celtics

BOSTON – Kyrie Irving dropped 36 points on the Philadelphia 76ers, a key factor in Boston (19-4) adding one more log on to the growing pile of victories this season.
 
And this game was like so many for Irving who made it look way, way easier than it should have been.
 
But those who compete with him and play against him realize how talented the 6-foot-3 guard can be, especially in the fourth quarter.
 
Irving’s fourth-quarter scoring was among the keys to Boston’s 108-97 win over Philadelphia.
 
In the fourth, Irving had nine points and in doing so, dashed away any hopes the Sixers had of an upset win.
 
“I mean, I say all the time how spoiled we are to coach players at this level, and he’s certainly one of the most gifted scorers in the game,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Irving. “And, you know, he can do things just with a tiny amount of space and make it look easy. And it’s really, really tough. I mean, even the – he made a couple of the one-on-one plays late where he drove it, but even the dribble hand-off shot that he made in the corner, I mean, it was pretty well-defended, and he just has a special ability.”

 Said Al Horford: “It’s a luxury. Not a lot of teams have that. Just his (Irving) will to win and make those shots, when we need it most, just keeps impressing me game by game.”

Here are the other Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-97 win over Philadelphia which improves Boston’s record to a league-best 19-4.
 
STARS
 
Kyrie Irving

When it was winning time, Kyrie Irving once again came through when the Celtics needed him most. He led all scorers with 36 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
 
Al Horford

The Sixers were no match for Al Horford whose contributions on Thursday night were everywhere to be seen. He finished with a near double-double of 21 points, eight rebounds in addition to dishing out five assists along with two blocked shots.
 
Dario Saric

With Joel Embiid (rest) out for tonight’s game, the Sixers leaned heavily on Saric who was last season’s runner-up for Rookie of the Year. He had a double-double for Philly, tallying a team-high 18 points to go with 10 rebounds and four assists.
 
 

STUDS
 
Ben Simmons

The 6-foot-10 “point forward” has triple-double potential every time he steps on the floor. But the Celtics did a decent job of limiting his effectiveness. He had 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting, to go with six rebounds and seven assists. He had a game-high five steals but he also had five turnovers which also led all players on Thursday.
 
Marcus Morris

Remember, if Gordon Hayward (ankle) had not suffered a season-ending injury, Morris would be coming off the bench every night for Boston. And that folks, would be a very good thing. Philadelphia had matchup problems with the 6-9 Morris most of the night, which led to him scoring 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
 
J.J. Redick

One of the best shooters of this generation, it was just a matter of time before shots started to fall for Redick. He scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half which included him finishing the game 4-for-6 from 3-point range while grabbing three rebounds to go with five assists.
 
Richaun Holmes

He played less than 20 minutes, but his activity around the rim was a major factor in Philadelphia holding their own with the Celtics for most of the game. He finished with nine points on 4-for-7 shooting to go with seven rebounds (three offensive).
 
 

DUDS
 
Jaylen Brown

There are going to be nights when no matter how hard you try, it’s just not going to be your night. That’s how things played out for Jaylen Brown tonight. He missed five of his six shots from the field and finished with just two points. In addition, Brown was the only Celtics player to finish the game with a negative (-9) plus/minus for the game.
 

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Other than LeBron Watch, Kawhi Watch will likely be the most captivating Watch of the NBA offseason,  and there's obviously a chance the two end up in the same place. Regardless of what happens with LeBron, I've officially decided where I want Kawhi to land. 

Cleveland. 

I've got my reasons, but I'll start with why I'm not clamoring for the C's to get one of the five best players in the league. Yes, the C's can offer the best package, but I don't want them to make an offer the Spurs can't refuse. I don't want them to trade Jaylen Brown and the Sacramento pick for a flight risk. I don't want them to trade Kyrie Irving. I want them to be loaded, as they currently are, and set to add to that in the future. 

Leonard supposedly wants to be traded to the Lakers. The more well-connected basketball reporters have noted the Spurs wouldn't have any motivation to turn the Lakers into a Western Conference powerhouse, which makes sense. 

So, if it's not going to be the Lakers, make it the Cavaliers. 

This might sound ridiculous, but I want LeBron James to be a character in this Celtics group's run. One of the things that made the 2017-18 Celtics' run so exciting was that it culminated in a showdown with LeBron, the best player in the league and the centerpiece of great Celtics series past. 

I don't want the Celtics to go on runs with LeBron in a different time zone. I want battling (and beating) the best player of this generation to be part of what the Tatum Era does. If the Cavs can land Leonard, maybe that will keep James from bolting in free agency. 

They're also rumored to be inquiring about Kemba Walker's availability from Charlotte to help surround LeBron with another star.

To be fair, I wrote last week that I'm fine with LeBron going to the Lakers and even forming a super team with Kawhi and Paul George. That's because I think either that team or the Warriors would be all tuckered out by the time they got to the finals against a Celtics team that just waltzed through the East. 

That wouldn't be as fun though, especially if the Lakers kept getting eliminated by Golden State. If the Celtics have another championship run coming during the final years of LeBron's career, I want it to involve a Kyrie/LeBron matchup. I certainly want it to involve a competitive underdog, and I don't trust the 76ers for that yet. Considering they probably wouldn't be able to get much else, a team of LeBron, Kawhi and a bunch of junk still wouldn't be favored against the Celtics at full health. 

If LeBron goes somewhere West this offseason, I'd still want the Cavs to get Kawhi. Assuming Kawhi actually plays, he'd at least keep the Cavaliers a playoff team and an interesting opponent. 

Could the Cavaliers actually get Kawhi? I don't see why not. If his status as a player who can opt out after next season scares some teams away, the eighth overall pick and whatever they could get for Kevin Love would already make their offer better than whatever the Lakers would try to scrape together. Sacramento could always trump everyone by offering the second overall pick for Leonard, but that would be stupid. Then again, sometimes the Kings are stupid. 

Kawhi in Boston? Not at the likely price, and not if it means that much risk. LA? Predictable. Put Kawhi in Cleveland, keep the East exciting and give LeBron a real decision to make. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

BREAKFAST POD: Jaylen and Rozier for Kawhi?

1:43 - Chris Mannix joined Gary Tanguay and Kyle Draper on Early Edition to discuss if the Celtics could trade up in the draft, and if the Celtics have any chance of acquiring Kawhi Leonard.

6:35 - Phil Perry talks about Albert Breer’s report that the Patriots talked with four teams (Lions, Titans, 49ers, Texans) about trading Rob Gronkowski. We also hear from Holley, Merloni, and DJ Bean about Tom Brady commenting “cuarenta y cinco” in response to an Instagram post about when he’ll retire.

10:34 - Lou Merloni and Chris Gasper debate how important it is for the Red Sox to avoid the Wild Card play-in game and win the AL East over the Yankees. 

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE