Kyrie Irving struggled yet again on Monday night, finishing with 23 points on 7-of-22 shooting from the field in the Celtics‘ Game 4 loss to the Bucks. Despite stealing Game 1 in Milwaukee, the Celtics are now down 3-1 in the series and while there are a number of issues you can point to, the most glaring one has been Irving’s poor play.
After the loss, he addressed his poor performance, noting the pressure he’s facing from the Bucks’ defense and his attempts to still put his teammates in good positions to score. But even though he’s been missing a lot of shots this series, he’s not letting that destroy his confidence, adding that he should have taken 30 shots on Monday night.
Irving’s full comments:
On his poor shooting stretch: “Who cares?”
On the Bucks’ defense: “I’m a basketball player, prepare the right way. Like I said, it’s a little different when your rhythm is challenged every play down,” Irving said. “You’re being picked up full court, they are doing things to test you. The expectations on me are going to be sky-high. I try to utilize their aggression against them and still put my teammates in great position while still being aggressive. I am trying to do it all.”
On staying aggressive: “For me, I had 22 shots, I should’ve shot 30 … just the consistency of going at it, staying aggressive is always going to put us in a great position. Obviously Being more cautious on turnovers getting down the stretch when they are going on runs or managing the game better that way, I feel I can do better that way. But in terms of shooting, it’s a series. They are doing a great job of loading and putting a high emphasis on anywhere I go on the court.”
In Games 2-4, all losses for the Celtics, Irving is averaging 20.3 points but has made only 19 of his last 62 shot attempts. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that these weren’t the type of performances the Celtics were expecting from Irving in the postseason when they traded for him.
There are all sorts of things you can talk about with this Celtics team and this series in particular, but in truth, none of them matter with Irving playing this way. And after spending all regular season telling everyone who would listen to just wait for the playoffs, these games sting even more.
It’s easy to see why comments like “Who cares?” or “I should’ve shot 30 (shots)” may seem a bit out of touch after these last three performances, but not living up to expectations is frustrating, and besides, Irving has never really been one to consider that aspect of answering media questions. Plus, in fairness to him, they make much more sense in context.
Is suggesting he should be gunning for 30 shots when he’s struggling like this a bit much? Perhaps, but the Celtics do need him to continue to be aggressive. At this point, it may be too late for a comeback, but if the Celtics have any hope of beating the odds, a bounce-back performance from Irving in Game 5 would be a good place to start. Wallowing in his poor performances might make fans feel better in the aftermath of the loss, but it wouldn’t help Irving play any better moving forward.