Boston Celtics

 

In what might be the most improbable postseason story, the undermanned Celtics sit one win away from the NBA Finals.

Down Gordon Hayward since Opening Night, and without Kyrie Irving (knee) since he underwent season-ending surgery on Apr. 5, Brad Stevens has found a way to coach up and gameplan his Green group into a 3-2 series lead over the Cavaliers.

But Irving not being able to play against the same Cavalier squad he helped bring to three straight NBA Finals before his summer trade to Boston is something that is ‘killing’ the 25-year-old guard, according to Stevens.

“In our sit-downs, and I obviously see him regularly, but in our sit-downs or just our casual conversation, he seems to be in a great place,” Stevens said before Wednesday’s Game 5 at TD Garden. “You know, it’s killing him not to be out on the floor. But I think that would be the case, obviously, any time you’re playing this deep into the Playoffs, especially in a new place.”

And it’s not hard to see why.

In addition to being the C’s leader on and off the court, the 6-foot-3 Irving is a player that’s consistently thrived in the postseason, with 23.9 points per game and a 46.5 field goal percentage in 52 career playoff games. His reputation as a big game is undoubtedly known, too, as it was Irving that hit the game-winner shot en route to Cleveland’s first NBA championship.

But most of all, it’s no secret that Irving would have undoubtedly loved to help bury LeBron James given their alleged falling out last season, with Irving reportedly sick of having to play in the shadow of the 33-year-old James.

“Other than that, his recovery is going great, and we’re excited about that,” said Stevens. “But he seems to be in a good place.”

In his first season with the Celtics, Irving averaged a team-leading 24.4 points per game, and shot a career-best 49.1 percent from the field, along with a carer-high 56.8 effective field goal percentage.

Irving (and Hayward) are both expected to be ready for the start of the 2018-19 season.