A mix of analysis and observations in the midst of the Celtics' three-game winning streak
1. Kyrie Irving picks up where he left off defensively: The All-Star made his return to the floor on Monday night with a solid outing (17 points, two rebounds, six assists) before taking the fourth quarter off in the 115-93 blowout win. While he picked up some momentum in the second half with his jump shot to finish 8-of-16 from the field, it was evident that his defensive focus returned as well. The 26-year-old piled up a team-high three steals and added to his tally of charges taken (nine on the year), which is tied for the team-lead with Marcus Smart. While there has some minor dropoff on the defensive end for the C’s in the past few weeks, Irving continues to remain committed to the cause, drawing inspiration from his backcourt mate.
“It’s well documented that I watch Marcus Smart highlights,” he said Monday, “But defensively, I literally just sit at home and watch him slide his feet and be able to beat guys to spots and take charges. To be able to do that at 6-4 with a great build like that, I’m like, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’ I just try to beat guys to the spot as much as possible and just be in the right spots. He’s always in the right spots, so why wouldn’t you want to watch a guy like that? And Baynes is always in the right spots, so give credit to those guys’ instinct and their length and what they use to create defensive havoc.”
The Celtics remain a better defensive team with Irving on the floor, which is a stark contrast to his on/off splits last year. The fact that the pattern has sustained for nearly 40 games is encouraging.