LOS ANGELES -- On most nights during this year, the Celtics’ offense falls apart when Kyrie Irving rests on the bench. The team’s offensive rating plummets from averaging 108.2 points per 100 possessions (top-10 in NBA) when he’s on the floor, to 97.2 points per 100 possessions when he sits (a few points below the NBA’s worst offense).
The Celtics managed to get away with this dropoff during the first 20 games of the season thanks to some stellar defense by the second unit, which offset the lack of offense within that group. That defensive performance has dropped off considerably over the last few weeks with the reserves and it’s a big reason why the Celtics had lost four straight games entering Wednesday's game against the Clippers. When Irving sits, the Celtics generally can’t score and when they can’t defend well either with him on the bench, this team is going to lose games.
With Al Horford sidelined on against the Clippers with lingering potential concussion symptoms, the pressure was going to be even greater on the C’s supporting cast. Who would be able to step up and carry the offense when Irving sat? Jayson Tatum was ready to answer the call.