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.
Here’s the main thing you need to know about last night’s Celtics game.
Shoutout to Brad Stevens for achieving a Popovich-level in-game interview, and he spoke the truth. When he gave that answer, the Celts – without Kyrie Irving (sore shoulder) – had scored just 53 points in 36 minutes, and also had no answer for Philly big Joel Embiid.
In the first half, the Celts committed 15 turnovers (most in seven years), shot 2-13 on threes, didn’t get to the free throw line once, and scored just 32 points.
In the third quarter, Embiid played like the newly minted All-Star he is, scoring 10 points. T.J. McConnell came off the Philly bench to add nine. The Sixers won the quarter, 32-21, to lead by 18.
A Celtics surge in the final minutes of the fourth got the deficit down to seven and finally gave the fans something to cheer. The Cs ultimately even won the turnover battle, 19 to Philly’s 25. But the Sixers were never truly in jeopardy. Unlike in London, they did not blow the big lead. The final was 89-80.
The Cs average 102.7 points per game, so it seems like when they hold their opponent to 88 points at home, they should win even without Kyrie. But, when he’s out, Boston struggles to replace his 24.1 PPG.
“Well first of all, they’re a really good defensive team, so I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Stevens said. “I just didn’t think we played hard enough on offense. I thought we played hard on defense. And it’s, I guess, a unique game when you’re playing hard on one end of the floor but not on the other, but we just, you know, we were very sloppy, over-dribbled, dribble didn’t take us anywhere, not moving the ball, not getting to spots. And when Kyrie’s out, you’ve got to be even better at those things. So, and then at the end of the game, you turn it up to a different level on offense, and good things happen.”
Kyrie has now missed three games this season, plus almost all of another when he was injured early in the first quarter. In those, the Celts beat Charlotte, 90-87, and Toronto, 95-94, both at home; were pounded in Chicago, 108-85; and then last night fell, 89-80. Three of those are among their five lowest offensive outputs of the season, with 80 points being the season-low.
Overall, through 46 games, the Celtics have a 104.3 offensive rating overall. When Kyrie is on the court, that rises to 108.1. When he sits, it drops to 97.5. More than 10 points lower! And last night, we saw that in action.
The conclusion is that, somehow, some way, the Celts need to find a scoring spark when Kyrie is on the bench. It’s crucial now, and will be more so in the playoffs. Maybe Gordon Hayward comes back, maybe he doesn’t, but if Danny Ainge is ever going to take advantage of the Disabled Player Exception, hope that he uses it for a reliable wing scorer.
The Celtics are going to have to learn to play without Irving for longer stretches. There have been times this season where they have expected him to save them down the stretch and he has. And there have been nights like Thursday and last month in Chicago where the Celtics have looked lost without their offensive leader.
And they desperately needed someone to respond with a scoring barrage and they proved incapable. If the Celtics want to contemplate a move over the next three weeks before the trading deadline, it has to be for a shooter who can supplement the bench. There were times when the Celtics were banking on Shane Larkin to make big shots, and as much of a sparkplug as he is off the bench, Larkin’s scoring should be a caveat, not a necessity.
“We did a lot of east-west dribbling,” Stevens said. “We did a lot of staring. We did a lot of not reversing (the ball). We did a lot of hoping and that’s no way to play. It’s not a fun way to play. It’s certainly not fun to watch. I’m sure you all feel that way. And it’s not good enough, not against a really good defensive team like Philadelphia.”
Other game coverage:
NBC Sports Boston – Embiid dominates as Kyrie-less Celtics fall to 76ers, 89-80 | Celtics score season-low 80 points in loss to Sixers | Kyrie Irving: Sitting out with shoulder injury ‘just precautionary’
Providence Journal – 76ers 89, Celtics 80: Boston falls without injured Kyrie Irving
On Page 2: All-Star voting tidbits
You must know by now that Kyrie was voted as a backcourt starter for the All-Star Game. He took first place in every voting category: fan, player and media. Kyrie and Kevin Durant (Western frontcourt) were the only players to do so.
Kyrie also got a sharp-looking tweet from TNT.
Here are more details about the voting.
And here are a few highlights and interesting/amusing details.
- Embiid was voted a starter, but Kristaps Porzingis received 100 votes from players to Embiid’s 94.
- Manu Ginobili, age 40 and still killing it, received 1.8 million fan votes to finish second in the West backcourt behind Steph Curry. However, the player and media votes dropped him out of a starting spot.
- Draymond Green, second in fan voting for the Western frontcourt, was voted just seventh place by players. (Rule of thumb: you hit guy in the nuts, they won’t like you.)
- Giannis Antetokounmpo received more player votes than LeBron James.
- Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were chosen overall as starters, but the media vote went to LaMarcus Aldridge and Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Best of all: Dwyane Wade was fifth in fan votes, sixth in media … and 15th among player votes. The guys on the court know who’s washed.
And, finally… Celtics pay tribute to Jo Jo
Last night was the first game since Jo Jo White passed away, and the Celtics honored him with a shrine at his seat and a highlight video. Also below are an audio clip with Bob Ryan, who describes how Jo Jo coolly closed out a playoff series with clutch free throws, and a column from Jo Jo’s hometown of St. Louis, describing his status as a local legend.
The Rest of the Links: