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Kyrie Irving helps Celtics extend win streak to nine - Nov 7, 2017


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Kyrie Irving
When Brad Stevens is preparing to coach a game, he usually looks at the most recent box score of the team he is about to face. If that team's star was subdued, Stevens is wary of what might come next. 'If they really struggled and they're really good, that's a scary sight,' Stevens said, 'because you know guys like that don't have quiet nights twice in a row very often.' Kyrie Irving (6'3''-G-92, college: Duke) did not play poorly in the Celtics' win over the Magic on Sunday, but he was held to 11 points. Last season, he scored fewer than that just twice. So Stevens had a sense Irving might be due for an eruption - except the good news was that he is wearing green now. On a night the Celtics were far from perfect, at the end of a challenging three-game road trip, Irving was there to rescue them when they needed him most. He would not let the winning streak end, not here. The point guard had his most complete game as a Celtic, pouring in 35 points on 14 of 22 shooting and dishing out seven assists, as the Celtics held off the Hawks and grabbed a 110-107 win, their ninth in a row. Irving's 14-footer with 20.3 seconds left all but finished off Atlanta. 'It's exciting to be out there and be on his side,' Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum (6'8''-F-98, college: Duke) said, 'watching him do all those incredible things.' It was the first time this season Boston won despite allowing an opponent to top the 100-point mark. Tatum added 21 points and 8 rebounds for the Celtics, and Alfred Horford (6'10''-F/C-86, college: Florida) had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. Boston's locker room afterward was calm and matter of fact. The win had not come easily. There were stretches when the Celtics appeared sluggish. But it was also a night that could easily have resulted in a frustrating loss, and it had not. Instead, the Celtics took a step. 'Every chance we have to be with one another to connect, they matter,' Irving said. 'Every moment matters for us to continue to build our foundation, what we want to be going forward.' The Hawks are expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, and through the first nine games they had certainly appeared that way, winning just once. But Sunday they grabbed an improbable road win against the Cavaliers, and perhaps Monday would show whether that was a fluke or the start of something more tangible. Stevens had expressed concern before the game that the Hawks' collection of small, quick, and relentless offensive players would cause problems for his team. And for long stretches, they did. The Hawks trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half but took a 103-101 lead on a Malcolm Delaney (6'3''-G-89, college: Virginia Tech) 3-pointer with 2:05. At the other end, the shot clock was about to expire when Irving drilled a 3 from the right arc to put Boston back in front. After Atlanta came up empty on consecutive possessions, Marcus Smart fired a pass to Tatum in the left corner for another 3, giving the Celtics a 107-103 lead with 46.7 seconds left. The Hawks cut the deficit to 2 with a pair of foul shots, but with 20.3 seconds remaining Irving hit the difficult one-handed 14-footer, capping his big night. 'He made huge plays down the stretch, obviously,' Stevens said. 'And I thought he not only made plays, he made a lot of right reads, too.' Irving logged 37 minutes, the most he has played during this impressive winning streak, and this effort came while playing on back-to-back nights. But the Celtics' lopsided win over Orlando on Sunday helped Stevens limit Irving to 27:40, and he said that was notable as he kept the point guard on the floor for a longer stretch in the fourth on Monday. Dennis Schroeder (5'11''-PG-93) had 23 points to lead the Hawks, who made a blistering 55 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half before finishing the game shooting 48.1 percent. Still, it was not enough. 'Until tonight, our defense has been pretty good,' Stevens said. 'But it's a reminder you have to be good every night.' The Celtics thought this three-game trip would offer a good gauge of their progress, and even though Monday was imperfect, there was little doubt that the jaunt was a success. Boston came back from an 18-poiint deficit to beat Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, then stifled the league's top 3-point shooting team, the Magic, and then grabbed a gritty win when they were hardly at their best. Now they return home to face the Lakers, who have had a surprisingly good 5-5 start. When Gordon Hayward suffered his gruesome ankle injury exactly three weeks ago and Boston lost at home the next night to the Bucks, the team's future seemed so uncertain. Now, though, it is brimming with possibility. 'You wouldn't expect that,' Horford said of the winning streak. 'I didn't expect that. But our group is really trying to lock in game to game as best we can.' The score was tied at 54 at halftime Monday, but the Hawks lingered at the start of the third quarter, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Taurean Prince and Marco Belinelli gave Atlanta its largest lead, 71-64, with 6:08 left. Then Irving took over. He hit a 16-footer, whipped a pass to Smart for a 3 on a broken play, and then cut into the teeth of Atlanta's defense and found Tatum for a 3 in the left corner. That was the highlight of a 16-2 run in which Irving scored or assisted on every point. The Celtics led, 91-81, with nine minutes left in the game when the Hawks answered with a 15-6 burst and took a 1-point lead on a Kent Bazemore 3-pointer with 5:27 left. But Irving would have the final say.
Courtesy of: bostonglobe.com

  




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