In the words of the greatest basketball player on the planet, LeBron James, “valuable’ or best player of the year, you can have different results.” That is to say, the winner of the MVP is not necessarily the best player in the league that season. Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving currently ranks twelve in the league in points per game, 27th in assists per game, 50th in three-point percentage, and 46th in steals per game. In other words, Irving hasn’t been the best player in the league this season. But if Thursday nights’ Celtics loss taught us anything, it was that Irving is one of the most valuable players in the NBA.
Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers was easily the ugliest game of basketball I have ever watched. Boston shot 40.5% from the field and 24% from three. The offense was stagnant (just 13 assists) and Boston threw the ball away like a quarterback rolling out with nobody open (19 turnovers). They matched their season average for turnovers (14) in the first half alone. The whole offense just looked out of sync. Late in the shot clock, Boston looked like a group of guys at the gym all trying to get theirs. Smart, Rozier, Brown, whoever had the ball with about seven seconds left on the shot clock was taking the shot. Even Tatum looked his age Thursday night as he made a couple bad passes and kicked it out of bounds multiple times.
Thursday night’s poor showing, minus the grit the team showed late in the fourth, was as convincing a case as any for Kyrie Irving for MVP. While Irving’s assists numbers may not be off the charts, his importance in creating for others is unrivaled. His shooting ability draws attention from defenders, opening passing and driving lanes. His isolation skills solve the issue of stalling offense late in the shot clock. Boston’s inability to capitalize on opportunities late in the game also showcased Irving’s importance in the clutch. With 6:35 left in the game, Boston trailed 82-68. In the ensuing four and half minutes, Philly scored just four points, which gave the Celtics a great opportunity to climb back into the game. But the offense stalled, missing two free throws, a couple layups, and a pair of jumpers. Boston needed Irving and his confidence in the clutch to carry the load down the stretch.
Irving has missed a total of three games this season, and Boston is 1-2 in those games. The two losses are to Philly and an embarrassing 23 point loss to the Chicago Bulls on December 11, both teams the Celtics should handle. Irving is the stabilizer for this team and without him, Boston looks like a flock of sheep without their shepherd. While he may not have the numbers of James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetekounmpo, Steph Curry, or James Harden, there is no doubt that Kyrie Irving is one of the most valuable players in the league.
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Boston Celtics article is published, fill out our email notification form.