Plenty of young Celtics have been thrown into the fire early this season as Boston deals with a plethora of injuries to its veteran players.
Friday night, that youthful group found itself in the midst of a fourth-quarter nail-biter in Philadelphia, as the C’s led the 76ers 86-84 with a little less than seven minutes remaining in the game.
It can be daunting for such inexperienced players to close out a tight game, but thankfully they have a seasoned star named Kyrie Irving that they lean on in such situations.
Irving, who started off the final frame on the sidelines, entered the game at the 6:45 mark with his Celtics ahead by two.
His veteran presence allowed the Celtics to take control of the game, as they closed out on a 16-8 run, en route to a 102-92 win.
Irving helped start off the run by connecting on consecutive pullup jumpers. He then assisted on a Shane Larkin 3-pointer that put Boston ahead 95-88 with 3:26 remaining.
The 76ers pulled back within five, but Irving was fouled on a 3-point shot at the 1:34 mark, and sunk all of his free throws to regain a commanding, eight-point lead.
Irving used the final minute of play to show off his defense. He picked off a bad pass by Joel Embiid as the 76ers tried to make it a two-possession game, and then snagged the rock from Ben Simmons on Philly’s final possession to seal the win.
Celtics fans likely didn’t know much about Shane Larkin entering the 2017-18 season. Friday night, they got a taste of what the 5-foot-11 point guard can do.
With the Celtics trailing 72-69 entering the fourth quarter, Brad Stevens surprisingly gave Larkin the keys to the offense, and the 25-year-old journeyman did not disappoint.
Larkin connected on all three of his field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, during the final frame, while also corralling two rebounds and dishing out two assists to help propel the C’s to a 102-92 win over the 76ers.
He proved to be exactly the energetic spark that Boston needed, prove by the game-high plus/minus rating of plus-16 that he obtained in just 19 minutes of playing time.
Larkin, who is now playing for his fifth professional team in as many years, is hoping that Boston is the place that rejuvenates his career. Friday night was a good start for him, as he provided 10 points, four assists and two rebounds, and gave Celtics fans a sweet taste of the skill set that he has to offer.
Box Score Nuggets
- Kyrie Irving was the game’s only 20-point scorer. He finished with 21.
- All five of Boston’s starters corralled between six and nine rebounds.
- Philadelphia had three double-digit rebounders, while the Celtics had zero; yet Boston won the rebounding battle, 55-47.
- No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum tallied 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the Celtics.
- No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz notched six points and three rebounds for the 76ers.
- Philly big man Dario Saric turned the ball over six times in 24 minutes.
- Both teams connected on 25 two-point field goals and 10 3-point field goals.
- Shane Larkin played 19 minutes off the bench for Boston and tallied a game-best plus/minus rating of plus-16.
- Joel Embiid finished with 11 points as he was held to just 4-of-16 shooting from the floor.
- Tatum shot 9-of-9 from the free-throw line.
- The rest of the Celtics shot just 13-of-23 from the charity stripe.
Quote of the Night
Through preseason, I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders. I feel like he’s got a huge upside.
Brad Stevens on rookie Jabari Bird, who played 14 impactful minutes off the bench.