Kyrie Irving Scores 32 Points as Celtics Escape with Win vs. Trae Young, Hawks

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2019

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 19: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball against the Atlanta Hawks on January 19, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Boston Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks 113-105 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta on Saturday.

Kyrie Irving led the way for the Celtics with 32 points and five assists, with Jayson Tatum (19 points and five rebounds) contributing to the victory as well. Gordon Hayward did not play in the game because of personal reasons.

Trae Young had 16 points and seven assists in a losing effort for the Hawks.

     

Kyrie Proving He Can Lead by Example

Irving recently made headlines by revealing that he recently called former teammate LeBron James to apologize to the four-time NBA MVP for his behavior during their time together. During that postgame media session, the five-time All-Star made it clear that he has some work to do on his leadership skills.

On Saturday night, he showed he has no problem leading...by example.

Irving kept Boston in the game early on by going off for 23 points in 18 first-half minutes. That performance included him going 8-of-11 from the field and 4-of-4 from three-point range.

Meanwhile, none of his teammates were able to reach double figures in the first half. In fact, as Irving rested to start the second quarter, the Celtics saw their deficit grow to 13 before their point guard checked back in. All Irving did over the final five minutes and two seconds of the period was score 15 of his team's final 19 points, which included a pair of treys in the final minute.

He wasn't finished, either. Irving helped Boston finish the come-from-behind victory by adding nine points in the second half, giving him 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting for the night.

Without that big-time performance, the Celtics would have dropped their fifth consecutive road contest and seventh in their last eight. More importantly, they would've fallen even further off the pace in the Eastern Conference.

The 2016 NBA champion ruffled some feathers on Jan. 12 by calling out his teammates after a 105-103 loss to the Orlando Magic: "The young guys don't know what it takes to be a championship level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we're trying to get to the Finals?"

Jaylen Brown responded to those comments by saying the team shouldn't be pointing fingers at each other, via Celtics on CLNS. While discussing his phone call with James with reporters, Irving acknowledged Brown was right and noted he could improve as a leader.

"I did a poor job of setting an example for these young guys of what it's like to get something out of your teammates. You go and you say something publicly and it ends up being received in so many different ways. You never know how fragile or what guys are going through when you say things like that. You're expecting results, but at the same time, I should have kept it in house. ... That was a learning experience for me of being in this position of really realizing the magnitude of my voice and what I mean to this group of guys. ...

"I've got to do the right things and not point fingers at individuals and really realize what we can do as a group, despite when we go on the road or the mishaps we may have."

Irving's teammates, per Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, appreciated the fact that the point guard was willing to take responsibility for his actions.

Actions ultimately speak louder than words, and the 26-year-old will have to prove to Brad Stevens and Co. that he is capable of being a leader both on and off the court. For now, though, Irving is at least proving that he can lead by example on the court, averaging 32.2 points per game during Boston's current three-game winning streak.

    

What's Next

Both teams will be back in action on Monday. Boston (28-18) will return home to host the Miami Heat, while Atlanta (14-31) wraps up its four-game homestand against the Orlando Magic.

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