Kyrie Irving's ability to dominate and be a decoy keeps defenses guessing

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BOSTON -- The Indiana Pacers used eight different players defensively on Kyrie Irving in Boston's 110-106 series-clinching Game 4 win. 

And while the added focus by defenses towards Irving does make it tougher to do some of the things he’s accustomed to, he seems to have no problem sliding from being Kyrie the dominator, to Kyrie the decoy as one teammate after another steps up while Irving continues to attract defenders like a pack of moths to a flame just before getting scorched. 

“The communication that we have among each other, is it could be anyone’s night,” Irving said. 

And that dynamic is what makes the Celtics such a dangerous squad for most teams. 

Irving’s ability to fluctuate between taking over games by himself and keeping defenses occupied while his teammates control the action, makes the Celtics a tricky team to keep in check. 

Teams don’t want to over-commit to trying to limit Irving but at the same time, team defenses have to account for his presence and its potential impact on their respective team’s chances to win. 

That problem will officially belong to the Milwaukee Bucks who should be wrapping up their best-of-seven series against Detroit tonight. 

Knocking off the top-seeded Bucks will not be easy for the Celtics.

But the challenge isn’t nearly as great when Irving is playing as well as he has during this postseason, and the Celtics are able to mesh the clutch-like demeanor of Irving with a team full of able-bodied, impactful players who are more ready for big-game moments than most might anticipate. 

“You just have to keep giving them that confidence,” Irving said. “I know how great I am with the ball, but we’re even more special as a team when I’m being aggressive and getting off the ball and they’re making great decisions as well.”

In Boston’s 104-96 Game 3 win, Jaylen Brown came through with strong defense as well as 23 points on 8-for-9 shooting. 

Prior to that in Game 2, it was Jayson Tatum delivering one of his most clutch performances in the NBA, scoring or assisting on eight of Boston’s last 10 points during a 10-0 run by Boston to close out the game which the Celtics won 99-91. 

“We have guys that want to make plays,” Irving said. “We put the ball in their hands and they’re able to do that.”

The NBA has become an arms race for teams, knowing the best chance for success is to stockpile as many highly-talented basketball players with elite skills, as possible. 

“It’s huge for us to be able to have those weapons,” said Gordon Hayward who had 20 points in Game 4  and was one of three different reserves used by Boston who finished with double figures scoring. “We have to be able to count on everybody. Different nights, it might be someone different based off of matchups, based off someone’s potentially a little banged up, based off someone just having a good night and someone else is not. That's where we can be dangerous. Being able to utilize everybody … getting fresh legs in there constantly is huge for us.”

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