Celtics Lead

Kyrie Has Finally Become Boston’s Alpha

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The city of Boston basked in the spirit of NBA Christmas last night. The Celtics won a thriller at TD Garden, beating the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime 121-114. While Jayson Tatum and Marcus Morris played important roles in the scoring department, the story of the game was Kyrie Irving‘s dominating performance.

Wearing the new Earned Edition jerseys, Irving electrified the arena, scoring 40 points while grabbing 10 boards and adding three assists. He dazzled with off-balance shots, stops on a dime, and tough contact layups. When it counted most, Kyrie delivered, nailing a critical game-tying fadeaway over Jimmy Butler to even the score at 108. Joel Embiid‘s monster night (34 points, 16 rebounds) was not quite enough. In front of a raucous crowd, Irving carried the torch for a Celtics team needing a huge win.

The Christmas Day conquest comes on the heels of a rocky week for the C’s. During a particular rough patch in the up-and-down season, Irving decided it was time to step up. After a disastrous game against the Milwaukee Bucks, which followed a shocking loss to the bottom-dwelling Suns, the team held an impromptu meeting in the locker room postgame.

Afterwards, Irving noted his duty to be selfless on such a talented squad in a telling ESPN article

“To be honest, I’m not playing the minutes I would want, the role I would want, that I would selfishly want for myself,” he said in the piece. But Kyrie then added, “That all goes on the back burner to being patient with what I have to do to grow as the leader of this team.”

Irving showed his readiness to take on the responsibilities of the Celtics’ alpha with this candid reflection.

Dark Horse MVP Candidate?

Meanwhile, Kyrie’s on-court production is the best of his young career. The 26-year-old is currently dishing out 6.3 assists per game — a career-high — while also controlling 5.1 rebounds per game, blowing his previous season high of 3.8 out of the water. He’s also shooting a lights-out 41.3% from beyond the arc. But perhaps most important is Kyrie’s noticeable improvement on the defensive end. The floor general is averaging 1.6 steals per game, which ties him for 16th in the NBA. He’s also posting a Defensive Box Plus/Minus of +0.9, a number matched by only 12 other guards. This season is the first time Irving has ever managed a positive DBPM.

Between hustling for rebounds, involving his teammates, and being aggressive on defense, Uncle Drew is putting together his strongest case ever for Most Valuable Player. He also appears ready to take the helm as captain of the roster. Irving has plenty of tough competitors ahead of him in the MVP race such as LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden and Joel Embiid. But the Celtics are talented enough to vault themselves back to the top of the Eastern Conference. If Kyrie can continue to improve his all-around game, he could gain individual praise for his team-first mentality.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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