Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

A. Sherrod Blakely
NBC Sports Boston

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

Kyrie Irving didn't say much following Boston's 124-117 loss at Charlotte. 

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But on Saturday, Irving delivered a stinging rebuke of his teammates as well as a not-so-subtle dig at the coaching staff in their approach to defending Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker. 

"The game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter," Irving told reporters. "We took our foot off the gas pedal; it got to a five-point game, momentum shifted from there."

He was then asked what does the team talk about following a game like this, one in which the Celtics had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter only to allow the Hornets to close out the game with a 30-5 run. 

"Being more mature down the stretch," Irving said. 

To see Boston lose a game in this fashion isn't all that surprising when you consider one of the stronger character traits of this team is their ability to let huge leads go to the point where they eventually result in a loss. 

Remember, this is the same Celtics team that blew a 28-point lead AT HOME to the Los Angeles Clippers which came right after blowing another double-digit lead at home to the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers. 

But that's in the past, something that has little impact on the present … until you have games like the one we saw Saturday night when it seems the mental toughness that should be developing in losing games just isn't there. 

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As Irving pointed out, the Celtics were playing the Hornets without some key players in the lineup. 

Al Horford was resting his sore knee while Aron Baynes (foot) and Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) were out with injuries

Replacing Horford in the starting lineup was rookie Robert Williams III, but he left shortly before the half after taking a hard spill to the floor. He was unable to return after team officials determined he had suffered a lower back contusion. 

"Judge us when we have our full lineup," Irving said. "But obviously when we come out and play like this with a bunch of young guys down the stretch, figuring things out … things are bound to happen but there's no excuses."

The difference-maker in the game was the play of Charlotte's Kemba Walker who tallied a near triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Marcus Smart would have been the primary defender on him, but Smart was on the bench after committing a series of offensive fouls. 

And while Jayson Tatum's length does him well when it comes to defense, Walker's ball-handling and ability to create space off the dribble was too much for Tatum and the Celtics to handle with Walker tallying 18 of his 36 points in the fourth. 

"It's one-on-one," Irving said. "Down the stretch, I try to come in and help as much as possible. We should have probably trapped him more like every other team does in the league but we didn't. He torches us every time we play them so it's no surprise."

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