Kyrie Irving: Celtics Have to Be More Mature Late in Games After Loss to HornetsMarch 24, 2019
The Boston Celtics led the Charlotte Hornets 112-94 with 8:21 remaining on Saturday night, but the Hornets outscored the Celtics 35-19 in the fourth quarter for a 124-117 comeback victory.
Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker scored 18 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth, which left Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving with bulletin board material for his team moving into the playoffs.
When asked what is talked about after a game like Saturday night's, Boston.com reported Irving replied, "Being more mature down the stretch."
Boston is in a three-game skid with nine games to go in the regular season. Following this loss, the Celtics dropped to 43-30 and fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
This isn't the first time this season Irving, who led the Celtics with 31 points in the loss, has called out his team's performance. In fact, Saturday night's remark is rather tame compared to what he said on Jan. 12 following a loss to the Orlando Magic.
In that instance, the Magic led 105-103, and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum chose an improbable baseline shot as time expired. After Tatum missed, Irving was animated:
Irving then told reporters that this Celtics team lacked experience and will struggle to compete for a championship.
"It's not easy to be great. So, the things you're doing, that you've done your whole entire career of being able to kinda coast by in certain situations, and you've gotten away with [in] your youth and stuff like that, being on a championship ball club, you can't get away with that.
"I know for a majority fact that we're better than most teams in this league. It's just going out and proving it every single night and demanding it and actually showing it. So until we do that every single night ... then we'll be better, but until then, we're gonna keep having these ups and downs and these lulls of going against teams on the road and they just know they can take advantage of us down the stretch or when this group is in and that group's out."
Shortly after that, the 27-year-old NBA champion vowed not to call out his teammates publicly again, but two months later, it appears frustration may have gotten the best of him.
Irving noted back on Jan. 12 that he wasn't satisfied with the fifth seed, but Boston has done nothing to improve its position since then.
Confidence isn't exactly high in Boston as the postseason approaches. However, Irving also pointed out when speaking to reporters following Saturday night's loss that the team is not currently at full strength, as Al Horford (knee), Aron Baynes (ankle) and Gordon Hayward (concussion) were all missing against Charlotte.
"Judge us when we have our full lineup," Irving said (via Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe). "But obviously when you come out and play like this, with a bunch of young guys, down the stretch, figuring things out, you know, things are bound to happen."
With Irving continually talking about the importance of experience, an up-and-down season taking lumps could be good in hindsight for a team with an average age of 25.88 years and 3.53 years of NBA experience.