The Boston Celtics picked up one of their most important wins of the season Tuesday night, and they did so without their best player.
After dropping a pair of ugly losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the Celtics got back in the win column with a hard-fought road victory over the new-look Philadelphia 76ers. Kyrie Irving was inactive for the contest due to a knee injury, but several players — most notably Gordon Hayward — elevated their games to help Boston earn a much-needed win.
The C’s now are 8-2 on the season with Irving sidelined, and it was just last spring that Boston came within one game of the NBA Finals without the star point guard’s services. As such, many have begun to speculate that Irving might be the root of the Celtics’ lingering struggles this season, but one of his former teammates isn’t buying it.
During Wednesday’s edition of “First Take” on ESPN, ex-NBA forward Richard Jefferson explained why Irving can’t shoulder all of the blame for Boston having yet to meet expectations this season.
(Jefferson’s segment begins at roughly the 0:55 mark)
Jefferson, who won a championship alongside Irving with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, makes a fair point. Climbing to the NBA’s mountaintop takes some level of sacrifice from every player on the roster. This notion likely is even more true for the Celtics, who might just have the deepest collection of talent in the league.
Truth be told, Boston likely will benefit from playing a few games here and there without Irving, as it provides the rest of the team an opportunity to get more looks and minutes than they’re typically used to. But talent almost always prevails in the NBA playoffs, and it’s tough to imagine an Irving-less Celtics team making a run to the Finals, especially given the stiffer competition that now resides in the Eastern Conference.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports