For the Celtics, who’ve now dropped two straight to inferior Eastern Conference opponents after reeling off seven wins in nine games prior, Saturday’s 105-103 loss to the Magic rankled star guard Kyrie Irving.
The final play went to the other side of the floor, with Irving uninvolved as Jayson Tatum fired an errant fadeaway at the buzzer. With Boston’s chance to tie bouncing off the rim, Irving immediately confronted inbounder Gordon Hayward. The two exchanged words before Irving walked off with a seemingly rueful shake of the head.
Hayward later explained Tatum receiving on the curl was one of the play’s several options, and Irving would’ve preferred an entry pass to Al Horford. Coach Brad Stevens indicated a level of comfort with the outcome, acknowledging that Irving ending up with the shot was among the possibilities.
The cloud continued to hover over Kyrie’s postgame:
Kyrie is sitting at his locker just staring straight ahead. Hasn’t showered yet. Most of the other players have already dressed and left.
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) January 13, 2019
Irving specifically called out the younger players at several points, as reported by Keith Smith:
“The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the Finals?”
“There were no expectations last year. Everyone played free and easy. Everyone surpassed whatever they expected for themselves. This year? We all have high expectations. The players, the coaches, everyone. And that’s good, but we aren’t doing it yet.”
Ultimately Irving pulled the lens back upon himself, saying he needs to lead.
“It has to be a cohesion. I’ve got to be better as the leader of the team in doing so and making sure these guys have more experience in certain situations like that, being more communicative. So I put it on me, of just being better.”
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