Celtics winning games – and winning over Irving with late-season success


INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyrie Irving is a six-time All-Star, one of the best late-game scorers in the NBA.

And yet there he was in the fourth quarter on Friday night, in the most important game of the Celtics season, doing the same thing you and I were doing - watching the Celtics pour on the points and in doing so, making a point in a crushing 117-97 blowout win at Indiana about a week before these two are expected to meet in a first-round playoff series. 

Not only did it all but secure home-court advantage for the Celtics when they meet the Pacers again, but it showcased both the promise and elite-level potential surrounding Irving on a night when the spotlight, for a regular0season game at least, had not been any brighter. 

And when you are the Celtics, who are trying to do their all in convincing Irving to stay long-term, these are the games that make it more difficult for him to take his talents elsewhere.

There’s no question Irving has had his share of rocky moments with the Celtics this season, whether it’s referring to “the young guys” one or two (or three or…) times too many when they screw up, or committing to re-sign with the team in October and essentially doing an about-face a few months later.

He is indeed a difficult player to figure out, for sure. 

Still, the one thing that has been constant with him during his time in Boston, is his desire to win. 

And as much as the Celtics lean on him to carry the squad on many nights, the fact that they could dominate a team as desperate as the Pacers and not need Irving to have a monster game to do so, speaks volumes about where this team is now and how far they can go. 

Boston won’t have many games in the playoffs, if any, where Irving can play just 27 minutes and that be more than enough for them to win. 

But the fact that this team has that potential and they put it together in what was easily the biggest game of the season, says a lot about this team’s growth. 

And if you sift through Irving’s comments most of the season, he has talked often about growth and its importance to this team as the season progressed. 

The way Jayson Tatum took over for stretches and maintained an elite level of aggressiveness… how Gordon Hayward is looking more like All-Star Gordon Hayward from a couple of years ago…Al Horford delivering a little bit of everything…Aron Baynes becoming Mr. Double-Double with three in his last five games...

How much all that resonates with Irving, remains to be seen. 

But if you’re the Celtics, you know for a fact it was the kind of victory that can only help their chances of keeping Irving around beyond this season, which remains Boston’s top priority. 

He is a dynamic talent who has already won an NBA title, but knows he can not win another one by himself. 

Irving knows he’ll need others to step up, step out and deliver on the biggest of stages. 

While he has caught heat at times this season for what many believe is him picking on the younger players, multiple Celtics have talked both publicly and privately about how Irving’s confidence and faith in his younger teammates have never wavered. 

“It doesn’t always come out right, what he says, but he’s got our back,” one of his teammates told NBC Sports Boston. 

It is that ultra-competitive streak in Irving that at times has made him a polarizing figure on this team, and in the eyes of opposing teams and players. 

But he desperately wants to be with a group that’s just as hungry for success and are capable of playing with that much-needed edge when it matters - a team such as the one we saw on Friday night that had him doing what we tend to do when it comes to him and the Celtics, and that’s watch it all unfold. 

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