Tim MacLean: It’s usually the Spurs who captivate an audience with their crisp ball movement. But tonight the Celtics took a page out of San Antonio’s book, skipping the ball around the perimeter and in and out of the post. That’s not to say the Celtics are a poor passing team, quite the opposite in fact. Tonight just felt different, though, and it started with Kyrie Irving.
A lot of people were concerned with how Irving would fit in Brad Stevens’s system when Boston first traded for him. Kyrie came with the reputation of an iso-heavy player but has done well to incorporate himself within the flow of the offense. Time after time he made the right pass, as well as the extra pass when necessary.
He’s not going to average 8-10 assists per game but he doesn’t need to. If he continues what he did tonight he’ll be just fine.
Jeff Nooney: It’s fitting that the night before Halloween featured the perfect encapsulation of the “Scary” Terry Rozier experience. We saw the classic frustrating Rozier sequence the first half: great anticipation leading to a steal, a smooth drive to the basket, then an inexplicable miss at the rim. This marked the nadir of his disastrous, 4-misses-in-30-seconds run. Although the rest of his 1/9 start featured some sloppy moments as well.
But the fourth quarter showed why Rozier’s two-way ability is still so promising. Rozier torched the Spurs with 8 straight points on some highlight worthy plays. He hit a step-back three after grabbing a defensive rebound and actually finished through contact after getting another steal. This explosive performance put the Spurs firmly out of reach. This game showed that, while the Terry Rozier experience may not be consistent, it’s always exciting.
Bill Sy: Ever since Brad Stevens became the head coach, the Celtics have never officially named a captain. They’ve had a few leaders in the locker room over the last five seasons. Rajon Rondo was sort of the de facto #1 as the team’s link to its championship season. Avery Bradley always lead by quiet example. Isaiah Thomas had one of the greatest Celtics seasons ever. With all those players gone now, there’s a leadership void.
Enter Kyrie Irving.
Stevens has always opted to use a leadership-by-committee approach to the locker room, but after some comments made after the Celtics’ impressive win over the Spurs, it’s clear that Kyrie has earned the respect of his teammates.
#Celtics Terry Rozier called Kyrie Irving "our leader" and Semi Ojeleye "The Incredible Hulk" after tonight's game.— Scott Souza (@Scott_Souza) October 31, 2017
Rozier on Kyrie: "He didn’t come here on no cockiness, none of that, and we respect him for that."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) October 31, 2017
After Rozier went on an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter that finished off San Antonio, it was Irving on the bench leading the cheers for the back up point guard. When his trade request was made public this summer, the narrative was that Irving didn’t want to be in LeBron’s shadow anymore and wanted to have “his own team.” We’ve seen him dazzle Garden crowds with his ISO magic and shot making, but for the most part, he’s embraced the culture in Boston, particularly on the defensive end.
Those are strong words from Kyrie: “they have a team-oriented vibe and culture here and I had to adjust my individual talents to the great good of the group and I feel like it’s going better than even I expected because of the guys in this locker room.” Stevens and Danny Ainge have been very careful in finding the right elements to build a winner and last summer, they cashed in a lot of chips to get Irving (and sign Gordon Hayward to a max deal). When you’re looking for complementary pieces, you can take a chance on a low risk, high reward role player, but trusting a superstar to lead your team is something else.