Celtics need balance, not just Kyrie Irving, when game's on line


BOSTON -- Kyrie Irving has a well-deserved reputation for being an elite scorer, particularly down the stretch. Because of his ball-handling wizardry, it has at times had an almost spell-like effect on fans and players -- including some of his own teammates.

And that can be a bad thing, especially in a down-to-the-wire battle.

The Celtics would much rather pull away and win with ease tonight against Charlotte. But in case it does become a nail-biter, coach Brad Stevens knows how important is to find that balance between Irving doing what he does well, but at the same time making sure others are engaged.

In Boston’s 111-103 loss to Washington on Christmas Day, Jayson Tatum had a great burst to his game to start the quarter and finished with nine of his 20 points scored coming in the fourth quarter.

Irving also tallied 20 for the game, but only scored five points in the fourth.


Stevens acknowledged that too much Irving-watching was among the issues that impacted his team’s play against the Wizards.

When asked about whether his players were “waiting” for Irving to take over, Stevens replied, “In that moment, yeah, maybe we did that a little bit. But is it a huge concern? Not as big a concern as getting our rebounding back and not turning the ball over.”

Here are five under-the-radar story lines for tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Charlotte Hornets.


Boston has been one of the NBA’s best on the road this season, especially against their own Eastern Conference brethren. Boston has an impressive 10-4 record on the road against teams in the Eastern Conference, the kind of success that bodes well not only for them in the regular season but could potentially come into play against certain teams that they come across in the playoffs.


Stephen Silas has been filling in for the Charlotte Hornets as their head coach since Dec. 4, which is when head coach Steve Clifford took an indefinite leave of absence from the team to attend to a health-related matter. Since the coaching change, the Hornets have gone 4-8.


With wing players dropping like flies lately for the Celtics, don’t be surprised if there’s an early Abdel Nader sighting tonight. Nader, last year’s D-League rookie of the Year, has seen action in two of Boston’s last three games which includes a six-point performance in Boston’s loss at New York. For the season, he is averaging 1.9 points while appearing in 17 games this season.


Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been around the NBA long enough to have a good feel for most of the players. But there’s no player he knows better than Kyrie Irving, a former high school teammate at St. Patrick’s High School in Elizabeth, N.J. “He’s always been talented,” Kidd-Gilchrist said of Irving. “He knows what he wants out of himself and that’s greatness. That’s all he talks about, all he preaches, is greatness. So, I respect Kyrie from high school until now.”


The Celtics were willing to give up a ton of assets heading into the 2015 NBA draft with the goal moving up to try and select Justise Winslow who wound up being drafted by Miami at No. 10. Boston targeted Charlotte and their No. 9 pick, but could not convince the Hornets to part with it. Why? Because they were absolutely in love with Frank Kaminsky who they felt could help them. Now in his third season, the 7-foot Kaminski primarily comes off the bench for the Hornets. This season, he’s averaging 10.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game and 1.5 assists.


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