The Boston Celtics will only go as far as Kyrie Irving takes them

The Boston Celtics have a roster loaded with talented players. However, despite this, the Celtics will only go as far as Kyrie Irving takes them.

The 2018-19 Boston Celtics are one of the most stacked teams in the league. Their lineup includes proven stars such as Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford, as well as talented role players like Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier. As a whole, they make for an all-around balanced team. However, despite their abundance of talent, the Boston Celtics will only be as successful as Kyrie Irving allows them to be.

Today, we will examine what sets Kyrie Irving apart from the rest of the team and why he is so important to their overall success. In many ways, Irving is the deciding factor for how far the Boston Celtics can go. By examining his past playoff experience, we will better understand why the Celtics will be relying on Irving to carry them to greatness.

Past experience

Irving's playoff contributions have been crucial to the success of his teams in the past.

Let's start off with the 2014-15 playoffs. This was Irving's first time reaching the postseason; he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers with LeBron James by his side. In his playoff debut against the Boston Celtics, Kyrie dropped 30 points on 11-21 (52.4 percent) shooting from the field. Irving finished his first playoff series by averaging 23.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Behind big performances from both James and Irving, the Cavaliers blew past the Celtics in a four-game sweep.

The next series would be much different for Irving and the Cavaliers. A nagging knee injury kept Irving from playing to his usual level and as a result, the team struggled. Through four games, the Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls were tied 2-2. Luckily, LeBron James was able to carry the team to the next round despite Irving averaging a measly 13.5 points over the last four games of the series. Already, it had become clear that Irving's importance to his team in the playoffs was huge. If Kyrie was playing badly, chances were the rest of the team was struggling too.

This would become more clear than ever when Irving broke his kneecap in Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, an injury that left him sidelined for the remainder of the series. In Irving's absence, the Cavaliers fought through a tough series versus the Golden State Warriors but were unable to emerge victoriously. The Cavaliers had come to rely on Irving's offensive capabilities and without his consistent scoring, the Cavaliers simply didn't have enough firepower to win the series.

Fast forward to the 2015-16 NBA season and the Cavaliers found themselves in an NBA Finals rematch versus the Golden State Warriors. This time, Kyrie Irving was healthy and ready to help his team battle. After falling down 3-1 in the series, Irving averaged 30.0 points per game over a three-game stretch to help lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA Championship. Irving's impact on the court was incredible, as he seemed to make every important bucket down the stretch. Without Irving in the lineup, there would have been no way that the Cavaliers could have pulled off that comeback.

In just four years of playoff experience, Irving has been a key component to three trips to the NBA Finals and an NBA Championship. For his post-season career, Irving averages 23.9 points and 4.7 assists per game. His importance to the team's success is obvious. To further prove this, the Cavaliers had a postseason record of 39-13 with Irving in the lineup and a record of just 4-4 without him (including Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals when he got injured in overtime). Furthermore, in the season following Irving's departure from Cleveland, the Cavaliers held a 12-10 record in the playoffs and clearly missed his presence.

How Irving impacts the Celtics

Kyrie Irving's prior experience in the playoffs will be critical to how the Boston Celtics perform in the postseason this year. Currently, the Celtics have nine different players with less than three playoff appearances. On top of this, Irving and Aaron Baynes are the only two players who have played in the NBA Finals. The team will obviously be relying on Kyrie to lead them through any adversity they might face in the postseason as he is the most experienced one of the bunch.

In addition to his experience, Kyrie is also the most consistent and efficient scorer on the Celtics. As of now, Irving is averaging a team-high 22.0 points per game. Boston certainly has a wide array of offensive talent on the team, but no one is on the same level as Kyrie Irving. Because of this, the Celtics will continue to look at Irving to give them timely buckets as the season progress. The team's reliance on Irving will only be magnified during the playoffs.

Lastly, the thing that sets Irving apart from the rest of his teammates is his ability to come through in clutch time. When the game is on the line, the Celtics will put the ball in Kyrie's hand and let him decide the outcome. Because of this, the Celtics will only go as far as Irving can take them. Which might be a good thing.

So far this season, Irving is shooting 21-of-41 (51.2 percent) on shots that are considered "clutch" by NBA.com. These shots are classified as any shot coming in the final two minutes of a game in which the score is within five points. Irving's 21 made field goals makes him the league leader in clutch shots this season. On top of this, he shoots the third highest percentage of any player who has attempted at least 20 clutch shots, falling behind just Victor Oladipo (63.6) and Evan Fournier (54.5 percent).

Kyrie has undoubtedly been one of the most clutch players the league has ever seen. His shot against the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals may be the most clutch shot in the history of the NBA. So if the Celtics need to rely on someone to hit a big shot, Irving seems like a pretty good option.

Conclusion

The Boston Celtics have more than enough talent on the roster to carry them deep into the playoffs. However, at the end of the day, every team needs a guy that can play Superman and carry them through the storm. For the Boston Celtics, Kyrie Irving is that guy.

Irving is going to be the deciding factor as to whether or not the Celtics finish the season as champions. He is the best player on the team, therefore, he will be asked to carry the heaviest load. This is obviously a tall task for any player, but it is exactly the type of challenge that Kyrie asked for when he demanded to be traded out of LeBron James' shadow.

If Irving remains healthy for the rest of the season, expect him to tackle the postseason without fear as he looks to lead the Celtics to their 18th championship in franchise history.

Like what you've read? Share it with your friends on      or  

Free Agency Tracker

Keep track of 2018 NBA free agency signings with our live free agency tracker.

The NBA Collection

NBA themed T-Shirts that are actually worth wearing.

Podcasts

Podcasts from the Hashtag Basketball Podcast Network, covering NBA and fantasy basketball.

Fantasy Basketball

Expert fantasy basketball analysis, podcasts, injury updates, and 19 free fantasy basketball tools to help you dominate your league this season.

NBA Coverage

Full coverage of all 30 NBA teams.