INDIANAPOLIS – Kyrie Irving doesn’t shy away from much. That includes shouldering the blame following a heartbreaking loss on the road.
Whether it was deserved or not, Irving walked in front of the media Saturday night inside of Boston’s locker room and took ownership for Boston’s 102-101 loss to the Pacers.
“This one was my responsibility,” he said.
The All-Star point guard felt responsibility for the loss for multiple reasons, which stemmed from both ends of the court. He felt he could have been more effective at his job, and could have put his team in better position to grab a win.
The first instance that drew Irving’s ire came at the offensive end with 11.7 seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, the Celtics ran a play to get the ball into Irving’s hands in the paint, hoping that he could up his point total from 18 to 20. They managed to accomplish their first goal, but Irving failed to accomplish his.
Irving missed a contested, left-handed layup, his only shot of the night that came from inside the paint.
“Great play call by Coach Stevens, and I just smoked that layup,” he said.
Irving went on to elaborate on the play and its importance.
“That was fully my responsibility to get open and to finish that shot. I rushed it,” he said. “I got my left hand on the backboard and instead of finishing the play, I just put too much whatever on it and it just shorted … I should have put us up four with that layup.”
Instead, Boston maintained only a two-point advantage, and that difference proved to be costly in the end.
Victor Oladipo hauled in the ensuing rebound, and seven seconds later, he pulled up in transition to can a game-winner 3-pointer from the right wing. Al Horford, who, along with Irving, attempted to challenge Oladipo’s 3, said that Indiana’s All-Star pulled up earlier than he anticipated.
But again, in a way, Irving stepped in to shoulder the blame for Oladipo and the Pacers even being in position to attempt a game-winning shot.
“It starts at the point of attack, with me at the top of the key and then the ball pressure that I can put on the other guards,” Irving said of Boston’s second-half defense, which was publicly criticized by both players and coaches following the loss. “So me having three fouls in the first and second and coming into the third, the assertiveness wasn’t necessarily there, where it’ll kind of enliven our back-side defense.”
Irving believes that if he had asserted himself defensively throughout the second half, Oladipo and the rest of Indiana’s guards wouldn’t have been in the same mental space during crunch time.
“If I get a point of attack where I can put pressure on Collison, put pressure on Cory Joseph… Allowing that to happen, they (the Pacers) got comfortable,” he said.
Irving’s ownership of Boston’s defeat is admirable. It’s what leaders do. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce used to do it. Kobe Bryant used to do it. LeBron James does it.
But that doesn’t always mean it’s warranted.
Irving’s teammates respect and appreciate his willingness to shoulder blame, but they know that he did not lose Saturday’s game on his own.
“People miss shots all the time. It’s not his fault we lost,” said Marcus Morris, who scored a team-best 23 points. “Oladipo made a big shot. It happens.”
Morris is right. Every team deals with crunch-time losses throughout an 82-game regular season. Those losses shouldn’t fall squarely on one payer’s shoulders.
Still, it remains a player’s choice to stand in front of the media and own their mistakes. That’s what leaders do, and as Morris stated after the defeat, “He’s our leader.”