As families gathered to celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, it’s likely a sentiment was shared among friends and family as the day wound down.
“Don’t be such a stranger,” one might say to a long-lost family member.
The Boston Celtics might as well have said the same thing to Kyrie Irving, at least the version of Kyrie Irving who showed up work Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden.
The Celtics star went off for 40 points while grabbing 10 rebounds for good measure in Boston’s overtime win over its little brother, the Philadelphia 76ers. Irving was especially good in the extra frame, scoring six of his 40 on a pair of 3-pointers, including a dagger from the parking lot to essentially ice the game.
Irving typically does his best work on the grandest stage, and it’s hard to beat Christmas Day, at home against arguably the team’s biggest “rival” (despite what Joel Embiid might say). But given this strange, injury-riddled start to the Celtics’ season, it sure would be nice to see this version of Irving more often.
Make no mistake: Irving certainly has been the Celtics’ best, most important player this season. But Boston certainly could benefit from getting the aggressive, big-game Kyrie Irving a little more frequently.
When Irving scores 30 or more points this season, the C’s are 5-1. Irving’s two best games of the season were his 40-point showing on Christmas and when he exploded for 43 points in a Nov. 16 win over the top-seeded Toronto Raptors. Interestingly, the Celtics are just 2-3 when Irving has 10 or more assists.
More often than not, Boston is at its best when Irving is playing aggressively.
So why don’t they get that more often from Irving? There is something to be said for getting your teammates involved, and that’s probably even more true with this Celtics team. There are plenty of mouths to feed, especially when everyone is healthy. Facilitating is important, as is empowering your teammates, but when Irving seizes a game, Boston is usually at its best.
And isn’t that what Irving wanted? Didn’t he force his way out of Cleveland to escape the suffocating shadow of LeBron James and take over a team as his own? On Tuesday, we saw that version of Irving. It would just be nice to see him a little more often.
Irving is honest, sometimes to a fault, and hasn’t been shy about his tendency to put greater emphasis on the bigger games. That’s understandable. But as the season unofficially started with Christmas — with four games and three other teams separating the Celtics and the East’s top seed, Toronto — it certainly would benefit the Celtics to have Christmas Kyrie drop by a little more often.
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