MILWAUKEE – When people reflect on the essential mysteries of the entity that is Playoff Kyrie, they tend to focus on outbursts of annotations and taking shots from another world. Playoff Kyrie can do that, of course. We have seen it so many times over the years that the image of Irving taking off in a binge of 20 points is fresh in everyone's mind.
We saw some of that in Game 1 of the Celtics' Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Bucks on Sunday, when Irving scored 26 points in a variety of post-up fashions, half-lane runners and jumpers. He led all scorers in the surprisingly easy 112-90 win for C, and his shot was a crucial component of his offensive efficiency.
But the score was not what made this a Playoff Kyrie performance. It was his death, which resulted in a total of 11 badists. It was his defense, which has been at point throughout the postseason. More than anything, it was the balance that contributed to the task of managing the game. Except for a couple of turnovers, it was a floor game as impeccable as you could wish for your point guard.
For Kyrie, it's not about choosing to be an annotator or a facilitator. It is a matter of understanding the rhythms of the game and of allowing oneself to go with the flow. Presenting the matter as an option is a restrictive binary construction. Playoff Kyrie contains crowds.
"I've been trying to emotionally decipher the whole board, how do we call back?" Irving said. "How can I re-score personally? Do I get more aggressive? You start thinking too much about the game, and it's just basketball." So you prepare yourself the right way, you give a lot of energy, you give your teammates a lot of energy. and everything will come back to you, and I really believe that. "
It turns out that Playoff Kyrie really tries to generate positive karma. When it feels good, everyone feels good. When the Celtics feel good about themselves, they make the game look so easy.
For the past few weeks, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been talking about how well Irving has seen the floor. When Irving attracts two defenders, he has been doing the correct reading and when it's time to leave, he's gone. What Irving has done during the postseason is keeping his approach delightfully simple.
Take the reliable pick-and-pop game with Al Horford. It is one of the oldest actions in the playbook. The big man places a screen and swerves to the perimeter, while Irving draws the attention of several defenders. From there it is a simple matter of doing the reading, handing over the pbad and returning to the defense after the shot.
Simple things, really. But, oh, it's so important for the Celtics to attack a Milwaukee defense that packs the paint and challenges you to shoot from the outside. This is the essential tactical pivot point of the series. The Bucks want the Celtics to take those photos and the Celtics are happy to oblige.
In most cases, allowing the big man to fire from the perimeter is a good exchange, especially if the alternative is for Irving to cut a path to the basket. But most of the big men are not Al Horford.
"It's very vital to our offense," Irving said. "It provides continuity. Bring spacing. Especially when we are in the right places and we remain disciplined in our midfield offense and we have the confrontations we want to go to. O Al knows when I will go downhill and we communicate throughout the game about how we want our pick and roll offense to be, how we can be more efficient, so I do not miss him on easy shots or easy opportunities. . what he can do for others. "
Again and again, the Celtics went to the pick-and-pop and the Bucks either were happy to give up that terrain or were terribly disordered in their rotations. Even when it did not result in a Horford jumper, it opened opportunities for players like Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris, who combined 12 of 20 points for 28 points.
When things got tough, as they did in the second quarter after the Bucks erased a 15-point lead in a matter of minutes, Kyrie responded by simply making the right move. Playoff Kyrie had control of the situation without dominating her, whether she was hitting a Brown by two easy or removing her defender from the dribble by a pullup 3.
"So, in the second and third quarters, I do not really care about the shots," Irving said. "I can get my shot whenever I want, I think everyone in the building knows that, but apart from that, the evolution of my game is because I could only control it very well and manage it, and establish these guys throughout the game , because they are also special. "
This is the balance the Celtics have been looking for all season. How is a team formed around half a dozen players who can score along with a point guard who can get any shot he wants, whenever he wants? The regular season made it seem almost impossible, but we are officially very far from those old talking points. This is the postseason and Playoff Kyrie has arrived just in time.