Kyrie Irving delivered a classic playoff performance – The Boston Globe

Kyrie Irving delivered a classic playoff performance - The Boston Globe
Celtics Terry Rozier is adjusting to being a role player
BOSTON — The Boston Celtics are looking to take a two-nothing lead over the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of their opening round playoff series. Game 1 was a throwback to the old days of beat em up basketball where points were at a premium and the team with the strongest will came out on top.

Scoring 84 point will not win a team many games. Holding the Pacers to 74 points was impressive, but its also an anomaly. They hadnt scored fewer than 89 all season, and even with playoff basketball being what it is, its prudent not to expect that to happen again.

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There were a lot of adjustments on their end, Brad Stevens said of the Pacers defense. They switched a lot more than they normally do.

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Switching defense is a gamble with certain players on the floor. In last years Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron did everything he could to switch onto Terry Rozier and attack that mismatch. The instant Indiana starts switching, the Celtics can find a target and exploit it.

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One way we saw that happen in Game 1 was Gordon Hayward hunting the smaller Darren Collison (Hayward is 6′8″, Collison is 6 feet even).

Share Share Preview: Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics Round 1 Game 2 tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports Indiana Pacers (0-1) at Boston Celtics (1-0)Wednesday, April 17, 20197:00 PM ETRound 1 Game #2, Home Game #2TV: TNT, NBCSB, FSInd,Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 1070 The FanTD GardenReferees: Tony Brothers, Sean Wright, Kevin Scott

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The Pacers have to respect Marcus Morris in the left corner and Kyrie Irving on the left wing. When Hayward sets the pick on the switching Collison, the ball is swung up to Al Horford instead of Tatum dumping it in because Horford having the ball there (a) is a threat to score and (b) is a threat to pass to Irving or Morris, so those guys have to stay close to their assignments.

The Garden was struggling to find its energy. They in-arena crew pulled out all the stops to keep the crowd engaged, including a second t-shirt toss and a second round of appearances on the big screen for New England Patriots Julian Edelman and Bill Belichick. Jayson Tatums dunk to cut the lead to four brought the decibel meter out. Irvings 3 nearly broke it.

Hayward uses his size and strength advantage to pack Collison down to the rim. From there, the pass is easy, and Hayward is deep enough where thats automatic. If someone from the other side of the floor makes a run over to help, that guys man, Morris or Irving, will get the ball for an open 3.

Kyrie Irving on huge playoff performance as a Boston Celtic: Theres nothing like it

This isnt some genius-level play that will get Brad Stevens into the Hall of Fame for basketball wizardry. The beauty of this is its simplicity.

When people talk about ways Hayward helps his team, they never really talk about his size, but he can be a significant advantage against a team with smaller guards. Cory Joseph is 6′3″. Wesley Matthews is 6′5″. Even Tyreke Evans gives up a couple of inches at 6′6″. The Pacers know the Celtics are attacking these mismatches, and its up to them to decide if they want to continue.

It felt good to be here in this position, playing in this arena, he said. “Its just been a long journey having those two knee surgeries and watching the team last year. And finally getting a chance to lace em up for the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs, theres nothing like it.

Pacers throw away their chances of winning Game 2 against the Celtics

Were the ones that are switching, Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. We know that sometimes take advantage of that and we have to have the proper coverage to defend that if they are trying to take advantage of a matchup, whether thats on the perimeter or the post.

The Garden has seen its share of special playoff moments. Becoming a legend in this city requires it as a rite of passage. Celtics fans have their forever fan favorites, but the true legends are the ones who raise their games in the postseason. The most legendary of those raise banners.

The Celtics can find easy ways to score by using simple plays like this to take advantage of Haywards height and skill if the Pacers continue to try switching on defense.

The Celtics took their first lead of the half. A jump shot and a free throw later and Irving had 37 points. When Boston gave up the lead, Irving had the ball in his hands again, and this time his play was to pass. The ball eventually found Gordon Hayward, and the win was sealed.

Share Share Kyrie, Here Now tweet share Flipboard Email Ringer illustration In the 60s, a young Massachusetts native turned Stanford and Harvard psychology professor was fired from the latter university for dosing undergrads with LSD. Richard Alpert soured on psilocybin, went on a spiritual journey to India, began calling himself Ram Dass, and came home preaching the benefits of yoga, meditation, and what wed today call mindfulness. In 2018, British fashion designer Grace Wales Bonner took inspiration from Dasss 1971 book Be Here Now and applied it to her new collection. In 2019, Kyrie Irving, a 27-year-old born in Melbourne, Australia, raised in New Jersey, and proofed as a professional in Cleveland and Boston, wore a T-shirt from the British designer with the controversial former professors philosophical musings emblazoned on it on national TV.

Irving was as close to perfect as you can ask a star to be in Game 2. 37 points, seven assists, six rebounds. He even blocked two shots. As bad as things looked in the third quarter, the Celtics kept things close enough for Irving to close things out.

Now, it can be a mugs game to read too much into NBA players off-court attire. Just ask Anthony Davis, who to the disappointment of Porky Pig fans everywhere swears he didnt pick his latest headline-making outfit out himself.

Just sit back and watch, Jaylen Brown said of Irvings heroics. Kyrie has the ability to take over games, thats what makes him special. When he gets it going, we just have to find a way to get stops.

Pacers playoffs final score: Celtics close out Pacers 99-91 in Game 2

But because of Irvings galaxy-brain public persona, its hard to resist reading the tea leaves behind his couture choices. The Celtics guard showed up to Sundays Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers wearing a Wales Bonner T-shirt (price: 150 pounds), and he changed back into it before he hopped onto the postgame podium at TD Garden to discuss Bostons 84-74 victory. Black with red lettering, the shirt boasts several Dass bons mots from Be Here Now, including But: You cant hustle it. You cant make-believe youre calm when youre not. It never works. Everybody knows. You know. Its horrible and You must center inside yourself. And: Whatever your dance is, youre doing it from that place.

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Its entirely possible that, like Davis, Irving did not choose this T-shirt specifically for this particular day, this particular game. Given how weve gotten here, though, it seems more likely the shirt was chosen for a reason. Reporters asked Jayson Tatum about nerves, and the 21-year-old relayed that Kyrie had confessed to feeling them pregame. What—Kyrie, nervous? The Finals Game 7 dagger thrower, the mysterious muser, the trade requester, the own-team wanter feeling butterflies before a first-round matchup with the Indiana Pacers?

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It was probably just a coincidence. Theres no way Irving waited until Tiger had conquered Augusta and legions of sports fans flipped over to Game 1 of Celtics-Pacers before kicking it into gear. But its still hard to dismiss out of hand.

As large groups of fans in TD Garden watched golf on the concourse, the Celtics struggled against Nate McMillans feisty Pacers. Celtics coach Brad Stevens said postgame that the visitors got up in the hosts grills early, forcing tough shots and some questionable choices. Thats why the Pacers were out in front by as many as 11 at one point, and why at the half the Celtics had only one scorer in double digits and were shooting a robust 32.5 percent.

The Pacers didn’t make a single two-pointer or free throw in the final period while they went 4 of 17 (23.5%) from the field. That’s only slightly worse than Game 1’s 2 of 19 (10.5%) performance in the third quarter. In both games, that was the biggest reason for their loss.

Still, the Celtics star point guard does love a big stage; hes talked again and again this season about just wanting to get to the postseason. Hes a champion, someone whos hit a game-winner in Game 7 of the Finals against one of the best teams of all time. And hes not shy about sharing that experience, or about sharing that the rest of his teammates dont have it—something that has, at times, caused a good deal of friction.

The Pacers bench reeled off a few runs in Game 1, but things couldn’t have gone much worse for them in Game 2. While they statistically outscored the Boston bench 26-22, Indiana’s bench players couldn’t stop anyone on defense.

There has indeed been a lot of bullshit in Boston this season, much of it tied to the teams star. In short, there was: Kyries commitment in the preseason to re-sign with Boston; the collective underachievement; Kyries seeming decommitment; the famous lip-reading; and yet more collective underachievement. A team many predicted would be the best in the East finished a distant fourth; its seeming abundance of riches has richly disappointed.

Stevens is no longer the peoples president. Tatum, beguiled by the midrange, isnt the superstar in the making he seemed 12 months ago. Al Horford is still vanilla—damn good, but not particularly exciting or novel. And Kyrie, the perfect wingman for the best player of his generation before he decided that he wanted to do it all on his own, has had growing pains.

Outside of Jayson Tatum, Irving is the only real offense the Celtics have had. But when he manages to shoot 15 of 26 (57.7%) from the field and 6 of 10 from deep, he does enough damage to keep Boston ahead.

Irvings numbers have been stellar this season: averages of 23.8 points, 6.9 assists, and 5.0 rebounds a game—the latter two representing career highs. His leadership has been … questionable, at least from an outside-the-room, analyzing-quotes-from-10,000-feet level.

The 34 3-point attempts in Game 2 tied their second post attempts in a game this season. Twice they attempted as many and only in a game against the Milwaukee Bucks did they take more with 37 attempts.

I think its harder to be a leader than people realize, former Celtics forward and current team TV analyst Brian Scalabrine says in an interview Tuesday. Especially in todays generation, where everyone is trying to be the greatest thing, and everyone believes that they should be as good as the next guy. There are levels to the game, and [Kyrie is] clearly, from a basketball standpoint, on a whole other planet when it comes to how good he is. So there are times when that holds weight. …

Arguably the Pacers outplayed the Celtics in 5 or 6 of the 8 quarters so far in this series, but their insufferably bad quarters of failure in the two games have starved them of any chance of winning.

Celtics edge out Pacers to take 2-0 lead

Sometimes guys listen to that. Sometimes guys dont listen to that. … Sometimes people scrutinize what he says, and they think, Well, hes gotta look himself in the mirror when it comes to the things hes saying.

Make no mistake, any chance of winning the game was figuratively and literally thrown away at that moment, but another awful offensive quarter was at the heart of Indiana’s collapse.

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While much of the analysis of the apparent dysfunction in the Celtics locker room has focused on youth—both Kyries and his contemporaries—Scalabrine says he thinks its more about human nature.

Im sure we all can understand people saying, Hey man, we did it without you last year. But I know these guys and theyre all really smart, and they know the game, he says. They have to understand that Kyries on another level, and [that] being a couple of possessions from the NBA Finals is a big difference from winning it all. Hes trying to emphasize that, since he has been through the trenches.

Finally back in the spotlight he seems to so adore, Irving got off to a spotty start in the Celtics first playoff game: He clanged 70 percent of his shots in the first half, hitting the break with seven points on 10 shots; the Cs trailed by seven. Then the third started, and everything flipped.

The Celtics ratcheted up their defense, and suddenly shots that had been falling for the Pacers started rimming out. Brown got free for a dunk off a feed from Irving, then Horford scored five straight points to tie the game at 45. Irving crossed up Bojan Bogdanovic and hit a 19-footer on the Celtics next possession, and they never trailed again. Hed score six more in the period and add an assist on a Marcus Morris 3-pointer, as Boston raced out to a lead as large as 22. When the buzzer sounded, he had a respectable 20-7-5 line.

Al Horford (illness) questionable for Game 2 against the Pacers

Maybe the most impactful play Irving made Sunday, though, was a sprawling attempt to pick off a loose ball in front of the Celtics bench. The referees whistled the scrum dead and gave the ball to Indy, but Irvings teammates clearly appreciated the hustle, the willingness to hurtle his body—the very same that betrayed him last season, costing him a playoff run by requiring a pair of knee procedures—across the court for a 50-50 ball.

That aggression is something Scalabrine looks for from Irving, and when he sees it good things tend to follow for the team.

When he plays fast, aggressive, the team follows his lead, he says. And when he plays a little bit slower and more deliberate, the team follows his lead.

Ram Dass is 88 years old and uses a wheelchair after a stroke, but hes still part of the community he created. And he occasionally watches a little NBA.

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Mitchell Markus, the executive director of Dasss Love Serve Remember Foundation and a Golden State Warriors fan—Dont know how that happened last nite?? he writes in an email Tuesday—says the two will sometimes watch a little basketball when theyre together in Dasss home in Maui.

The fact that Kyrie wore that shirt is pretty amazing, Markus wrote, and [its] great to see anyone reflecting the tenets of Being Here Now.

In the moments after Game 1, Irving certainly seemed in buoyant spirits. When a reporter asked him about fighting over all the screens Indy set on him on defense, he smiled and said that while he appreciated the compliment, he definitely didnt go over all the screens. In another response he joked about the teams low point total, the first time all season theyve won a game after failing to break 100.

We understand the position that were in, Irving said. Theres no time to really [dwell] on the mistakes that happened in the first half. At this point, its really just whats the next thing we can [do to] impact the game? Whats the next thing that we gotta do to be more locked in?

And when you have that type of mentality, then its no time to be fixated on all the mistakes. … To be in a dogfight like that, and, I dont know, did we score 90 points? No. Ive been in a few playoff games where Ive been on both ends, but thats where the really gritty individuals make their mark.

And while Kyrie was talking specifically about Game 1, he might as well have been talking about all of it, everything that went into the Celtics being where they are right now.

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