In the doldrums of winter, we took scores of reactionary callers –– pardon the redundancy –– who proclaimed they would rather see Terry Rozier or Marcus Smart start at point guard for the Celtics instead of Kyrie Irving. It’s safe to say most of those folks probably feel differently following Irving’s dominant showing over the Pacers. His excellence propelled the Celtics’ sweep.
In four games, Irving averaged 22.5 points and 7.8 assists per night. His mere presence on the floor flummoxed the Pacers, who devoted an inordinate amount of attention towards stopping him. As a result, Irving still impacted the series even when he wasn’t shooting. He didn’t take a single shot in the final three minutes of Game 2 and collapsed the defense on Al Horford’s late three-pointer in Game 3.
As the Celtics scuffled their way through the regular season, Irving kept telling us to wait until the playoffs, where he’s been a historically good performer. He’s now 16-0 in opening-round playoff contests, making him the only player in league history to play in at least 10 first-round games without losing. (Remember: Irving was out with an injury when the Bucks took the Celtics to seven games last spring.)
With those numbers in mind, Irving’s playoff anticipation is now understandable. He’s always showed up when the games matter most, and the Celtics will need another herculean effort from him if they’re going to advance past the vaunted Bucks.