The Boston Celtics expected to have a three-headed monster entering the 2017-18 NBA campaign.
And while the injury to Gordon Hayward altered that outlook, Thursday night showed the Celtics’ dynamic duo still is plenty lethal.
Kyrie Irving and Al Horford always were going to need some time to develop chemistry, but it appears the two stars are well ahead of schedule after they combined for 51 points in the C’s 96-89 win over the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Bradley Center.
For the first time this season, Irving looked like the “Uncle Drew” from Cleveland, as he showed a variety of offensive moves, including a devastating crossover on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the fourth quarter. Irving crossed up the Greek Freak, blew by him and then lofted a floater over the outstretched arms of two defenders to give Boston a seven-point lead late.
But while Irving’s individual game (24 points, seven assists) was impressive, his connection with Horford is what should delight Celtics fans.
The two stars worked seamlessly together for the first time in the early season, and it showed during the fourth quarter.
Boston entered the frame leading by three, but held a nine-point lead, thanks to Marcus Smart and the bench, when Irving and Horford returned to the game.
Irving’s and Horford’s games meshed perfectly over the final seven minutes, as the electric guard drove baseline before finding Horford for a wide-open 3-pointer on the wing.
After Irving’s floater halted a Bucks’ run, Horford found the point guard diving to the basket for a layup that pushed the lead to nine.
Horford’s 27 points led the Celtics, and head coach Brad Stevens lauded the big man’s ability to defend Antetokounmpo and drill the long-range shot (4-for-5 on 3-pointers).
Horford had become the forgotten man among the Celtics’ flurry of offseason moves, but he and Irving are tasked with guiding a young group through an improved Eastern Conference.
And Thursday showed they are more than capable.
Here are more notes from Celtics-Bucks.
— Irving and Horford went 11-for-15 in the first half, while the rest of the team was just 3-for-24.
— While Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were responsible for Tuesday night’s win over the New York Knicks, the two youngsters struggled Thursday, combining to go 5-or-16 from the field.
— Smart returned from a two-game absence to score eight points off the bench, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
— Antetokounmpo has had a brilliant start to the season.
Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images
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