Tuesday night’s action was a welcome sight to sore eyes in Boston. The wait for Kyrie Irving, the Celtics star point guard, to score a lot of points and shake the monkey off of his back is finally over.
Irving scored 31, his highest point total of the season thus far, and added 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal to his game totals as well. Irving, with a freshly shaven head, seems to have moved on from his horrid start to the season that saw him averaging just 14 points per game through the first six games, and a stretch where he eclipsed 20 points just twice, an scored a career low, 3 points in 23 minutes, against the Pistons on October 27th.
Let’s jump into this game and see what we can takeaway from it.
Kyrie looked like his old self again
Kyrie Irving started this season with an Afro. It was a new look for Kyrie, and he didn’t perform well. Hours before the game, he posted on Instagram that he had shaved the Afro away to his more traditional look.
Kyrie has really struggled this season to get going, and it must have been really frustrating for him. To finally shake (er, rather, shave) the monkey off of his back and have a solid game must feel great, and hopefully he can continue with that.
His shot chart looked better too, as you can observe for yourself down below. The most encouraging thing that we saw from Kyrie last night is he had his step back. Check out the video I attached that’s blowing up #NBATwitter.
Kyrie Irving leaving Pistons bodies on the floor! Was the hair holding him back?
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) October 30, 2018
What’s going on with Kyrie?
Kyrie’s game has always been his ability to score at the basket, and then come back down the court and knock down a pull up three. He’s always been an offensive weapon more than anything else.
Yesterday, he struggled in his usual game, the mid range. As you can see, he missed everything from the high post. Still, despite that, Kyrie looked smooth on the court. We’ve wanted to see that for a while now, where Kyrie can just settle into his game. He did so, and in a beautiful fashion.
Another crazy stat: Kyrie scored the same amount of points alone in the third quarter than the entire Pistons team scored (13). This speaks volumes on the defense that the Celtics are capable of playing.
Seeing Kyrie shoot 10 of 16 from the floor (4 of 7 from behind the line) is extremely encouraging as a Celtics fan. With his struggles from the floor all season, we all love that he has gotten back into things with a special game in a crunch-time moment.
The Celtics have had an answer for Blake Griffin
When the Celtics beat the Pistons on Saturday Night, 109-89, they held Blake Griffin to just 7 points. Not so much the case in this game, as Griffin led his team with a bruising 24 points and 15 rebounds.
Griffin had been pretty effective from beyond the three point line so far this year before his couple of games against the Celtics. Going into last nights game, he was 15 of 27 on the season from that range, getting basically any shot he wanted.
Griffin had never been that kind of a player, until last year, when he started taking more three’s. He still wasn’t a great three point shooter, but apparently it’s something he’s working very diligently at adding to his arsenal. This season, he’s been shooting lights out.
Part of the equation for Blake so far this year is no one has known how to defend him. He’s hitting three’s and driving to the basket. If you try to defend his three point shot, he drives around you to get the uncontested lay-up. What do you do as a defender?
The Celtics switched to Zone Defense.
The Celtics spent a lot of their time last night in a 3-2 zone. They know that Detroit really doesn’t have any serious perimeter shooting threats, and decided that they could place their four and five defending the low post. Because Jaylen Brown is an over-sized guard who can play forward, he could contest Griffin on any three he might try to take. If Griffin tried to drive around him, he would run into Jayson Tatum or Al Horford on the low post.
The Celtics are the first team so far this year who had an answer for Griffin, and held him to his two lowest point totals this season. In Griffin’s 3rd quarter shift, Detroit was -15 on the floor. It’s truly special that Boston held him to 31 points in two games.
Aron Baynes is a better player this year
We really weren’t sure what to expect from Aron Baynes this season. Last season, he was certainly a valuable defender, but I certainly didn’t expect to see the offensive output that Baynes has added to the bench.
To put into perspective, Baynes averaged 6 points per game last season. He was a board guy, took a three once every 3 games, and only hit 14.3% from that range.
This season, he’s hitting 40% from that range, and is averaging 8 points per game. I don’t think there is a game he hasn’t hit a 3 point shot in yet this season. He’s on fire from deep.
Baynes has been missed the last couple of games as he dealt with a hamstring injury. When Daniel Theis went down injured, Baynes was brought back to the active roster.
What a welcome addition, too. He scored 9 last night, 2nd most off the bench, and grabbed 5 boards, shooting 3 of 5 from the floor. Good to have you back on the court, Aron.
Despite this ball game being a good bit closer than any of us wanted to see, the Celtics got the win, extended their win streak to 3, and get ready for an All Saints Day match-up with the Milwaukee Bucks on TNT, Thursday, November 1st. It should be a good one folks. Stay tuned.