If Kyrie Irving’s goal on Friday was to outdo Wednesday’s sensational performance, he had his work cut out for him. But the star point guard managed to do so — and then some.
Irving — who logged 27 points and a career-high 18 assists in the Celtics’ previous win over the Toronto Raptors — stuffed the stat sheet yet again Friday night. He tallied a game-high 38 points to go along with 11 assists and seven rebounds in Boston’s 122-116 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at TD Garden.
The five-time All-Star never has been considered an elite passer, but he’s proven in the last two games he’s more than capable of being a facilitator even while finding buckets for himself. And as you can imagine, the Celtics haven’t seen back-to-back performances like Irving’s last two in quite some time.
Irving appeared to be on total control all game long, as none of his shots, nor his passes, seemed forced. His sharp decision making wasn’t lost on his head coach.
“I thought he was just smart about his attack,” Brad Stevens said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “I thought that he picked his spots really well. They were trying to blitz him early and he was patient, didn’t force anything. When things opened up, he took them.”
As for Irving’s mentality throughout his monster night, he stuck to keeping it simple.
“Just play the game. Two are on the ball, pass the ball. If I see an open lane, a one-on-one, then attack,” Irving said. “Just stay in that attack mode. Stay focused.”
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Celtics-Grizzlies game:
— A pair of Celtics recorded season highs, as Marcus Smart knocked down six 3-pointers and Aron Baynes pulled down 12 rebounds. Smart’s 6-of-8 mark from beyond the arc boosted his 3-point percentage to 37.3 on the season.
“He’s just had a good year with that,” Stevens told reporters. “I thought he was going to have a really good year last year and then he had some hand injuries and issues, and I think that set him back a little bit. We felt good about his shot the last two years and I think it’s a constant growth and constant improvement. He’s still a young player and I think that those guys tend to get better shooting the ball.”
— Lost in Irving’s performance was the boost from the bench. The duo of Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, specifically, provided a jolt of energy and made the most of their playing time with 22 combined points.
“When we come out, we just try to make sure our energy is good, so it will add to the team’s goal,” Brown said. “Coming out, making that emphasis is good for us.
“We all need each other, I’ll just say that.”
— Despite the interior presences of Marc Gasol and Jaren Jackson Jr., the Celtics still managed to outrebound the Grizzlies by a 52-33 margin.
— Al Horford has been impressively efficient over his last two games, scoring a combined 42 points on 17-of-22 shooting, including a 5-of-7 clip from 3-point range.
— The Celtics have won their last eight games at TD Garden, marking their longest home winning streak since 2015-16.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports