The Boston Celtics hung on to fend off the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, and Kyrie Irving watched the closing minutes from the bench.
Terry Rozier entered the game in place of Irving with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and Boston holding a 10-point lead. Dion Waiters responded nine seconds later with a 3-pointer to keep the Heat within striking distance, but Brad Stevens stood pat and kept Irving on the sidelines. Gordon Hayward ended up playing the role of closer for Boston, scoring seven points over the final 2:13 to lift the visitors to a 112-102 victory.
Irving was in foul trouble at the time of his late-game substitution, but Stevens’ decision to take out (and keep out) the star point guard still was surprising nonetheless. After the game, the Celtics coach shed light on his tactical move.
In hindsight, things worked out perfectly for the Celtics. Irving was afforded a little extra rest, and Hayward’s clutch efforts surely must have served as a confidence boost for the veteran forward, who’s had an up-and-down season. Not to mention, the C’s weren’t forced to rely on Irving to nail down the coffin on a desperate Miami team that is fighting for a spot in the NBA playoffs.
As noted above, Irving didn’t appear fazed by Stevens taking him out. The six-time All-Star had nothing but positive things to say about his coach after the game as well, noting their relationship has “grown tremendously” as the season has progressed.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images