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Is Kyrie Irving Sacrificing Shots for the Good of the Team?

 

The Boston Celtics are 4-2 through six games of the 2018-19 NBA season, but they haven’t played up to the lofty preseason expectations. What needs to change for the Celtics to click?

Six games into the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Boston Celtics have provided fans and analysts with more questions than answers.

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are both back playing, but they clearly aren’t at full capability yet. When will they reach that level again?

The Celtics defense looks great again, but why can’t a team with this much talent perform better offensively?

Through six games, the one thing that’s clear is that the 4-2 Boston Celtics are very much a work in progress. On-court chemistry and connectedness can not be rushed or forced, it has to occur organically.

Boston showed a glimpse of what it can be in last week’s win over the Pistons, but the best is yet to come.

We took a moment Tuesday morning to pause and try to answer some of the questions that beg asking of Boston. Thank you to our readers for their submissions. Without further ado:

“Kyrie Irving seems to have sacrificed a lot of statistical production to try to get his teammates involved so far this season. Do you think this trend will continue? How many points do you think he will average?” – Chris F.

Surprisingly, to me at least, Kyrie Irving has been the player to sacrifice or adapt his game the most to accommodate Boston’s loaded rotation. After posting a career-high usage rate last season (29.7), Irving has a career-low usage rate (24.3) through six games.

Irving has cut back on the over-dribbling isolation moves and is finding more of his shots within the flow of the offense. Only 58 percent of Irving’s baskets this season are unassisted, down more than 10 percentage point from his heyday in Cleveland.

Of course, Irving has been ice cold, shooting 39 percent from the field and 24 percent from deep so far; perhaps his shots are down because he’s not as confident scoring as usual, or isn’t feeling 100 percent after returning from knee surgery.

However, Irving’s ball-movement and pinpoint passing have been notable, especially for a team that has played selfishly at times this season. Irving and Horford’s pick-and-roll chemistry is off the charts, and Irving gets Horford a bunch of open threes each game with smart, well-timed pocket passes.

When Irving’s shots start falling, and he reaches mid-season form, his scoring will certainly rise, but I think point guard Kyrie is here to stay. Irving is a cerebral basketball player and he’s spoken to the media about actively looking to get everyone else involved offensively.

Expect Irving to finish the season with about 21.5 points and 6.3 assists per game, leading the team in both categories and adding another layer to his already well-formed game.

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