Irving Flirts with Another Triple-Double as C’s Soar Past Hawks

BOSTON – Just two days after logging his second career triple-double, Kyrie Irving found himself falling just one assist shy of his third.

Following a 31-point, 10-rebounds, 12-assist masterpiece in Thursday night’s 126-120 win over the Sacramento Kings, Boston's star point guard came out Saturday afternoon and put up a near-repeat performance against the Atlanta Hawks, recording 30 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and nine assists to help lead the Celtics to a 129-120 win.

Irving has never had an issue finding the back of the net, so any high-scoring affair of his should come as no surprise. His production in the other two areas, however, is an intriguing trend that has been building throughout the season, and particularly after the All-Star break.

“I’m just trying to play the game the right way, play with just unbelievable effort, making sure I’m getting guys involved, but staying aggressive looking for my shot,” Irving explained after the game of his recent elite, all-around production. “As I do that more it starts to open up for my teammates.”

Irving’s improved passing numbers have certainly opened things up for his teammates. He has averaged 7.1 assists per game this season, which is two full assists higher than his average from last season and one full assist higher than his previous career-best set in 2013-14 when he was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

After notching just one double-digit assist effort in his first season with Boston, he has produced 18 such efforts in Year 2. That includes five double-digit dimers already in the month of March, during which he has also averaged a league-high 9.5 assists per game.

“He sees the floor extremely well and he’s got great instincts on when to move the ball,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He gets doubled in all kinds of different ways. He gets jumped off of screens. Like, at the end of the game I thought he did a great job finding (Marcus) Morris on a couple of screens. He found Al (Horford) on the lob. He just really has great instincts at reading the game, and I think we have to do a better job as a team of spacing for him so that he can read that game.”

Irving has also displayed great instincts in terms of reading the ball off the rim. Double-digit rebounding efforts were extremely rare for Irving throughout the first seven years of his career, as he tallied just two games of 10 rebounds during that span. Since Christmas, however, he has reached the 10-rebound mark four times, including in each of the last two games.

Saturday’s 11-board effort upped Irving’s season average to 5.1 rebounds per game, which is a solid leap from the career-high 3.8 RPG that he set last season.

“I think it’s great,” Horford said of Irving’s rising numbers on the glass. “I think when our guards rebound the ball like that, I think that’s when you start becoming a team that’s elite. Him, and Terry (Rozier), and those guys coming in there getting those long rebounds, those rebounds over the top, they just make us that much better. It’s been really impressive what he’s been able to do these last few games.”

So, what exactly has sparked Irving on this magnificent all-around run of late?

“I think I was being a little more conservative over the past games before All-Star break, and since then I’ve just tried to be as aggressive as possible,” he explained. “When I’m aggressive, the team is aggressive, and it helps us.”

That type of well-rounded aggressiveness should continue to help the Celtics as they close out the regular season, and it should come into play even more next month when the Playoffs start up.


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