Kyrie Irving has been known to get carried away with words. But the Boston Celtics point guard got straight to the point Monday night.
Irving dropped a season-high 35 points and seven assists to power Boston to a 110-107 win over the Atlanta Hawks, its ninth straight. Perhaps the most clutch play of the night, though, came from rookie Jayson Tatum, who took a great pass from Marcus Smart and drilled a corner 3-pointer with under a minute left to push the Celtics’ lead from one to four.
Tatum’s clutch bucket came after he passed up a few open looks earlier in the game. So, when Irving was asked about that play after the game, the 25-year-old decided to deliver a message to the rookie.
“That pass has to be made,” Irving said, via MassLive.com’s Jay King. “And (Tatum) has to shoot it. And if he doesn’t shoot it, then I’m going to be right in his face telling him that he needs to (expletive) shoot it.”
“Excuse my language,” Irving added. “But he’s gotta step up.”
Irving has a point: Tatum went 3-of-5 from behind the arc Monday and is shooting 52.9 percent from 3-point range this season — including a mind-boggling 81 percent on corner threes, per Brian Robb of the Boston Sports Journal.
Part of that success is due to small sample size: Tatum has attempted a shade over three 3-pointers per game, sixth on the team, despite being tied with Al Horford for the third-most makes (18). But Irving believes Tatum’s sharpshooting should inspire the 19-year-old to let it fly, especially in clutch situations like Monday night.
“Everybody in this locker room understands they’ve got to be great within their roles,” Irving said. “So, that’s a knockdown. That’s a knockdown right there for him. I’m glad he made it.”
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports Images