BOSTON -- This season began with a level of heightened expectations this Boston Celtics franchise hasn’t had to deal with in nearly a decade.
They were bona fide title contenders from the jump, and a lot of that lofty status had to do with having Kyrie Irving in the fold.
As the Boston Celtics (37-23) sit in the fifth spot in the East riding a two-game losing streak, there’s still time for them to accomplish most if not all of the goals they set out to do this season.
But for those dreams to come true, they will need Irving’s talent — particularly in the clutch — to have that everyone-lives-happily-ever-after kind of season.
But is there such a thing as too much Irving?
It becomes a relevant topic of discussion in light of what we’ve seen the last two games — both losses — for the Celtics.
☘️BULLS 126, CELTICS 116
A six-time All-Star, Irving has played 40 or more minutes in back-to-back games in the regular season for the first time as a Celtic.
Both games ended in a defeat.
Depends on who you ask.
Coming back from the All-Star break, there’s a certain amount of rust players and coaches have to shake off at first.
But you also have to factor in who the Celtics were playing in the first game after the break.
There’s no shame in losing by a single point at Milwaukee which boasts the best record in the NBA, a game that Irving played a major role in helping rally the team back into it.
But it was Irving’s woeful shooting to start that game (he missed 13 of his first 15 shots, but made seven of his last 12) that put the Celtics in the midst of such an uphill battle most of the night.
Against Chicago, the Bulls charged ahead by as many as 25 points and spent all but 26 seconds of the fourth quarter leading by double figures, which is when Irving scored 18 of his team-high 37 points to go with 10 rebounds.
While time, score, opponent and rhythm certainly play a role in how many minutes Irving will play, having him log major minutes has not been a formula for success in Boston or his previous stop in Cleveland.
With the Cavs, Irving had 55 games in which he played 40 or more minutes.
Cleveland finished with a 28-27 record in such games.
In Boston, the Celtics’ record in games in which Irving plays 40 or more minutes is 2-4.
With the Toronto Raptors on the schedule next, no one should be surprised if Irving plays 40 or more minutes for a third straight game on Tuesday considering how talented the Raptors are and how big a deal this game is for both teams.
As Irving’s playing time rises, it has come at the expense of Terry Rozier, who has played 20 minutes or less in each of Boston’s last two games.
But the cut in minutes is understandable considering how Rozier has shot the ball the last couple of games (3-for-17 which includes missing nine of his last 10 three-point attempts) with many of the looks being wide open to lightly contested.
Both Irving and Rozier have opened up recently about the healthy rivalry that has developed between them over time.
“He’s like a big brother that I want everything that he got,” Rozier said in an interview for NBC Sports Boston’s Post Up show. “It’s never hating on him or nothing like that, but it’s just I want everything you got. So, I’m going to challenge him every day and he’s going to challenge me.”
That internal competition is becoming more lopsided by the day with Rozier struggling and Irving consistently putting up big numbers and in doing so, getting more and more opportunities to play more minutes.
But is that a good thing?
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