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Charania: Celtics turnaround sparked by Irving-Stevens confrontation

Per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Kyrie Irving and Brad Stevens

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics have had two team meetings--one following the blowout loss to the Bucks and another the following day before the blowout win vs. Charlotte--but it was a star player/head coach confrontation earlier in the season that could have been the initial catalyst for the team’s turnaround. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that during a road loss to the Mavericks that dropped the Celtics to 10-10, Kyrie Irving and Brad Stevens had a “heated moment”:

It was after the coaching staff’s feedback over a turnover on a previous play, according to sources, when Irving finally responded, had an emotional exchange and let out some bottled up frustration.

The incident did not get personal, according to witnesses. Irving and Stevens are known to have a close relationship, which Irving has credited as part of the reason he has committed long-term to Boston. It is not unusual for a star player and his team to have these types of blow-ups, but it needed to occur and came during a notable turning point early in this Celtics season.

For what it’s worth, this could be the turnover that sparked the tête-à-tête:

The offense is lazy, the transition defense is lazy, and the body language of every Celtic on the floor and on the bench is lazy.

Jaylen Brown was lost to a back injury in that loss in Dallas, Marcus Smart replaced him in the starting lineup, and the Celtics subsequently won 10 of their next 13 games. As Shams suggests, “Smart joined Irving in the starting backcourt, supplying two-way play and helping relieve Irving of ball-handling duties while giving him the ball in his preferred spots.” During this thirteen game stretch, Boston is first in NetRtg at 12.9 (117.3 OffRtg, 104.5 DefRtg) and are currently only three losses out of first place in the Eastern Conference.