Brad Stevens thinks his Celtics aren’t committing on defense and instead taking shortcuts.
Kyrie Irving thinks the responsibility to fix that issue falls on his coach.
“That’s up to Brad,” Irving told reporters following Tuesday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Irving was also asked about Marcus Smart’s statement that the Celtics were not playing together. Irving’s only response was that it was “Marcus’ opinion.”
The Celtics allowed the Raptors to knock down 17 threes in a 118-95 loss. Toronto went on an 18-0 second-quarter run and led by double digits throughout the second half, assisting on 33 of its 46 field goals.
Boston has lost three straight games and five of its last seven. The Philadelphia 76ers have a two-game lead over the Celtics for the fourth seed in the East, and it’s increasingly likely that Boston—a team many picked as the No. 1 seed in the preseason—won’t even have home court for Round 1.
Trying to be a body language expert is always a little tricky when dealing with professionals, but the Celtics haven’t found their groove all season and they’re running out of time. They looked like a team barely interested in playing together in a pivotal conference matchup Tuesday.
“For whatever reason, we’re not fighting the way we’ve done in the past,” forward Al Horford told reporters.
Irving was limited to seven points and five assists in one of his worst performances as a Celtic. It was his first single-digit scoring performance since an Oct. 27 win over the Detroit Pistons.
Much of the long-term uncertainty in the locker room comes down to Irving, who can decline his player option to become a free agent this summer. Kyrie has long been linked to the New York Knicks, who spent their deadline trading away Kristaps Porzingis to get two max slots—presumably to pursue Irving and pal Kevin Durant.
Irving has done nothing to dispel any potential interest, backing away from his verbal commitment he gave the Celtics in October and arriving at almost every postgame press conference with an ornery disposition.
Something has to give for the Celtics. It’s just unclear what changes can be made at this point.