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Your Morning Dump… Where Closer Kyrie understands Brad’s brilliant mind

Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.

“There’s open dialogue but we prepare for [late in games],” Irving said. “He understands the talent that I have at that point, especially in the fourth quarter. But I also understand his brilliant mind, so when we’re preparing for walkthroughs or simulating situations then it’s kind of easy to go off one another.

“I’m able to see the reads and what’s going to happen and he makes the play calls. We’re just continuously building that trust for one another, so it’s pretty easy.”

[…] “Ain’t too much trading [ideas]; he’s the man, so for me I just try to soak up as much knowledge as possible,” Irving said. “Just being in the passenger’s seat, it’s like having a driving-school teacher. He’s driving you the whole time and he’s able to put you in the driving seat sometimes and you’re able to see the road. When you’re able to bounce ideas and have that type of connection, and it’s still developing, it’s pretty awesome.

Globe: Kyrie Irving emerges as a closer in streak

Kyrie Irving is currently the league leader in clutch points per game (last five minutes of a game, score within five points). He scored 11 points in just that situation to close out the Warriors. He scored 10 over the final five minutes last night and 12 in the fourth quarter.

He’s doing so well, it takes four guys to try to stop him…

(They didn’t stop him. He hit two free throws.)

So Kyrie is starting to assert himself at the ends of games and assume the role of our beloved former point guard. Unlike last year, though, Kyrie is sort of expected to be a takeover guy. He’s supposed to be doing these things when the Celtics need him to. And it seems like he’s doing it while being a full partner in the offense early on.

To Kyrie’s credit, he’s adjusted his game very nicely this  season. His assist rate is at 33.1% which is the second highest of his career, his turnover rate is the lowest it’s ever been, and he currently boasts the best defensive rating of his NBA life. His raw numbers are down but so are his minutes per game and usage rate. If you extrapolate things out to Per-36 or Per-100 possessions you’ll see everything is pretty much where they’ve always been.

So Kyrie’s production is pretty much where it should be and he’s closing out wins in a massive win streak. Those are two very good things. However, the Celtics offense remains pretty bad for way too long. The only saving grace so far is takeover stretches by different guys. Last night Marcus Morris stepped up to bring the team back from a huge hole, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown alternated hot streaks, and then Kyrie closed the door. Sure, the Celtics scored 110 points, but they only occasionally whipped off an offense that looked like this:

This is now Brad the driving instructor’s biggest challenge. How can he coax a good, cohesive offense out of this team? Or does he at all?

We spent last season with a bunch of guys who struggled to create their own shots, so the only way to score was to pass the ball a ton, spread the floor, and give Isaiah Thomas enough daylight to do his thing. This year’s team has guys who are better 1-on-1 players, and they’re doing what Stevens tells everyone to do: do what you do best.

The one thing to keep in mind is that we’re just 17 games into the season. The magnitude of this streak has warped our perception of where this team really is. As Brad said last night: 

“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion,” Stevens said Saturday morning at Boston’s shootaround at Philips Arena. “We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”

[…] “We’ve got to be better, and we know that,” Stevens said. “We can’t get so caught up in the results of all these games and ride that emotion. We’ve been fortunate to win a lot of the games in this streak, including Thursday night. If we dig ourselves a 17-point hole every other game, it’s not going to be as much fun as we’ve had recently.”

It seems odd to think that in the midst of a 15-game winning streak, but his point is well taken.

The Celtics have had played well enough to win 15 times in a row. That’s an amazing feat but within many of those 15 wins was a very sinking feeling that things were not going well. At some point those comebacks will stop happening.

Yes, Brad is a genius and Kyrie is a closer and together they’ll more likely than not figure out how to get the in-between straightened out. Until then, I guess we just ride this roller coaster for as long as we can.

Side note on the Kyrie quote: I definitely think the effusive praise for Brad Stevens, while genuine, is also a shot at Tyronn Lue. Every time Kyrie talks about how amazing the coaching is in Boston, he’s throwing a lot of shade Cleveland’s way.

Related links: MassLive: Kyrie Irving, dominating in crunch-time, compares Boston Celtics’ Brad Stevens to driving school teacher

Page 2: Kyrie got a new mask

At the advice of the Celtics medical staff, Kyrie Irving put his protective mask back on last night. And unlike Thursday’s win over Golden State, the Celtics guard actually finished the night with the plastic device still in place.

But he did request some modifications in the gear, namely larger eye holes. It seemed to work last night, as he scored 30 points in the 110-99 win over Atlanta in his most efficient shooting night of the season.

“Felt good. Didn’t see me take it off as much, so that’s a positive,” he said after hitting 10-of-12 shots from the floor. “Saw a little bit more of the crowd tonight, the eye holes were a little bit bigger. The basket looked a little better. I was able to keep it on, and it was a better fit.”

Herald: Celtics notebook: Bigger eye holes help Kyrie Irving light up Atlanta with 30 points

Have a look:


(photos: Jason Getz, Brad Penner, USA Today Sports)

On the left is the mask from the Atlanta game. On the right, Brooklyn. You can see how much bigger they made the eye holes.

You just can’t take away any player’s peripheral vision and expect good results. I’m not sure what the designers were really thinking with that first one.

The best part is… now that it’s fixed, we can get back to getting hyped about Batman Kyrie and make all the “hero we deserve” jokes again. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

And Finally…

Look at James Young doing things in the G-League..

This was probably some kind of revenge game for him… I’m sure he felt like taking down the Red Claws was sending a message to someone.

Young is just not an NBA-level player. He can dominate the G-League but he can’t bring the same level of play to the NBA. The sooner he accepts this, the sooner he can go off to some league overseas and make a bunch of money. Hell, maybe he’ll follow the Gerald Green story arc where he bounces from league to league, makes a few million, then comes back to the U.S. with a new attitude and perspective in life. Maybe then he can be a bench player who hits corner three’s in a wild return to Boston as they go for Banner 22.

The rest of the links

NBCS Boston: Celtics continue comeback narrative with win vs. Hawks  |  Stars, studs and duds: No lack of confidence for Brown  |  Irving, Brown lead Celtics over Hawks, their 15th straight victory  |  Young Celtics playing high-level defense without fouling a lot  |  Stevens: Celtics haven’t played well enough to make streak ‘valid’

ESPN Boston: Cardiac Celtics come back from 16-point deficit to upend Hawks

MassLive: Stephen Curry says comments about Boston Celtics’ title chances were misinterpreted: ‘I hate when that happens’  |  Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum lead Boston Celtics past Atlanta Hawks, 110-99

Herald: Murphy: Hurricane Maria alters Al Horford’s Dominican mission  |  Celtics push streak to 15  |  Celtics coach Brad Stevens provides grief support for Celtics forward Jaylen Brown after death of friend

BSJ: Celtics’ youth demonstrate why the future is so bright in win over Hawks  |  BSJ Game Report: Celtics 110, Hawks 99 — career night for Jaylen Brown

ProJo: Celtics 110, Hawks 99: Irving, Brown help Boston rally for 15th straight win