Kyrie is magical as Celtics outlast Raptors in a battle of Eastern Conference heavyweights

by Matt Rooney

With a 123-116 OT win vs Kahwi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors last night, the Celtics have now beaten the 76ers, the Bucks and the Raptors in the seasons first month – their top three challengers for Eastern Conference supremacy. Yeah, the Boston Celtics are really, really good and should easily be the favorite to make the NBA finals.

The Celtics will go as far as Kyrie takes them

Kyrie toasted the Raptors for 43 points (on 69% shooting) and 11 assists – he was magical all night. Whenever the Celtics needed, Kyrie produced, scoring clutch bucket after clutch bucket (he had 23 in the 4th quarter and OT). Forget Jayson Tatum, forget Al Horford, the Celtics need Kyrie Irving at his best to make a deep playoff run, and if he plays like last night, the Celtics will be the last team standing.

Hayward was all of us last night, “[Kyrie] made some shots tonight where you were just like wow. You catch yourself being a fan.”

Kyrie Irving was special last night, and he has the ability to carry the Celtics all the way to an NBA championship.

Gordon Hayward needs the ball in his hands more often

Hayward was great last night. He played a season high 40 minutes in his best game in a Celtics uniform, going for 15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. Also, he hit two free throws at the end of regulation to tie it and send the game to OT.

Hayward’s biggest strength is his playmaking. He can generate great looks for others, and Brad needs to find ways to get the ball in Gordon’s hands more often. When Kyrie is out, Hayward should play point and run the offense. This would have many benefits, including freeing up Rozier to be agressive and look to score more.

Jayson Tatum is a star, but he needs to be more consistent

The Celtics needed Jayson Tatum to play well in order to win this game. In the first half, Jayson Tatum was limited to two points on 1-of-5 shooting, but he woke up after halftime, going for Tatum had 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting the rest of the way.

Tatum, 20, is a star. He is an extremely gifted scorer and an underrated defender, but he needs to be more consistent. He has too many passive halves, (like the first half vs Toronto) where he just doesn’t seem into it mentally. When he is aggressive and trying to make plays on both sides of the floor, he is the perfect complimentary star to Kyrie.

The Celtics may have to trade Terry Rozier

Last night, Terry Rozier scored 4 points on 2-6 shooting in only 20 minutes. He deserves more than that. As the season progresses, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rozier starts to become unhappy, forcing the Celtics to trade him to a better situation with more opportunities. Cause let’s face it, as long as Kyrie Irving is in Boston, Rozier’s minutes will be limited. He deserves more, and more isn’t possible in Boston.

Marcus Morris can flat out defend

With the game tied at 107 and the Raptors with the last shot, Morris (not top defender, Jaylen Brown) was the man call to defend Toronto superstar, Kahwi Leonard. Morris did his job and forced Leonard to take a contested deep two – which rimmed out and ultimately led to overtime.

“My whole thing was fade away from 18-19 feet, he makes it, he makes it. Just making sure I contest high and that’s what happened,” said Morris.

Morris has been great on both ends this year for the Celtics, and is a top sixth-man of the year candidate.

 

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