Thursday night seemed like the worst nightmare of the Boston Celtics.
After leaving the first two games of their five-game trip, Boston came into play against the Phoenix Suns at 6-4 in general, with noises about chemistry and complaints about playing time starting around the club.
The Celtics hibernated at the Talking Stick Resort Arena, falling into a 22-point hole against 2-8 Suns. It seemed that the C were destined to face the growing questions about what went wrong with the favorites of the Preseason Eastern Conference.
But Kyrie Irving had other ideas.
With Boston at a disadvantage of 12 with three minutes of play, the Boston star put on her hood and saved the seductive Celtics. Irving reached 10 points in the last three minutes and found Marcus Morris for the third pointer who won the game with 0.3 seconds remaining to send the game overtime.
Even the overtime work, of course, belonged to the Boston hero.
The star of Irving and Suns Devin Booker has dueled for the first minutes of OT, with the guard of the C who scored the first six points of the period and assisting a 3-pointer of Al Horford that gave Boston an advantage that not he would have given up. Irving scored 16 points in the fourth and overtime, turning a disastrous defeat into a 116-109 victory and a moment that could put the Celtics on the road to uncover the dominant level of play they are capable of.
While Boston is full of talent across the board, Irving is clearly at a level all by himself, and has shown why he is one of the best talents in the league during his end-of-game barrage.
"This is definitely time to kill, you know," Irving told NBC Sports Boston Abby Chin after the game. "I just want to go out aggressively, make sure I do the right comedies on both sides of the ground, just play my strengths and trust my teammates.This is the most important thing we are starting to understand is that it's about who it marks, it's about trust, making that extra step, making a game and trusting oneself, that's really what it comes down to. "
The Celtics scored 13 points with 18.2% of shooting in a disastrous first quarter, but Irving believes it is part of the growing pains that the group is facing while trying to find out how to play together.
"It happens, you know, these road trips, you want to go out and play well, of course, we are forming this team and our camaraderie, our cohesion, every adjective you want to throw there to describe, what we are going through right now is understanding as a team and we just have to be resilient and have the heart and I think we showed this desire tonight to win, we wanted it, it came out with a dubbing. "
The questions about the consistency and potential of the Celtics will continue if they move slowly, but Boston has played pristine basketball along the entire stretch and it all stemmed from Irving's assault.
Here are other notes from Celtics-Suns:
– Coach Brad Stevens was happy that his team got the victory, but he knows his team is not far from where it should be.
"I said (Suns coach Igor Kokoskov) that we did not deserve to win the game," said Stevens, as seen on NBC Sports Boston. "It was certainly a nice individual performance by Kyrie, and Morris hit another huge hit for us, but we still have a long way to go."
– The Suns had a 99.7 percent chance of winning when they were up 17 with 6:56 to play. Boston has passed Phoenix 43-17 for the rest of the game.
– With the Celtics down 20 at half-time, Stevens chose to change his lineup, going with Marcus Smart instead of Jayson Tatum. Why? Effort.
Preview photo via Jennifer Stewart / USA TODAY Sports images