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Time for Kyrie Irving to give Boston a signature playoff moment

Kyrie Irving, a 46.5 percent shooter in the postseason before this year, is below 40 percent through three games against the Bucks and just 41.2 percent including the Pacers series.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

If these are indeed the final days of Kyrie Irving in Boston, then Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals would be a great time to make his imprint on the organization which he has spent the past two years with.

Irving, who has the option of leaving via free agency on July 1, spent 15-minutes plus just talking with coach Brad Stevens following the Celtics’ practice on Sunday at Auerbach Center. Just two hoop junkies chatting. Their relationship has been strong throughout Irving’s tenure with the Celtics, and Stevens needs his point guard more than ever Monday at TD Garden.


The Milwaukee Bucks turned Irving into a 12-for-40 shooter the past two games of this series , a gifted dribbler and penetrator stifled by Milwaukee’s collapsing defense, and challenged to make an acrobatic layup against three or more defenders.

After going 4-for-18 shooting for 9 points in Game 2, Irving promised a better Kyrie in Game 3. He was, but not efficient, and he couldn’t help dig the Celtics out of a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit in the 123-116 loss. Irving is being outplayed by his All-Star counterpart Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has adjusted to the Boston Game 1 defense and dominated. He attempted 40 free throws in Games 2 and 3, and that has been the key to the Milwaukee wins.

“He’s not stopping; he’s going to keep going as you should,” Irving said of Antetokounmpo. “I always go back to saying that the object of the game is to outscore the other team. I get it. He’s being rewarded for his aggression at the free throw line. We just have to be able to wall up and do the little things a lot better than we did it the last game.”

Inasmuch as he voiced his displeasure with the amount of Antetokounmpo’s free throws, Irving has to counter with a momentous offensive game of his own. He needs to score more baskets. He needs to get to the line often — when the game counts — and he needs to finish at the rim.


Was the Irving risk worth it for Danny Ainge if the Celtics lose in the conference semifinals? That’s debatable. But Irving needs to have a signature game. He needs to carry this team, which played well in stretches in Game 3 but needed a more impactful Kyrie down the stretch.

The Celtics seem to know what they need to do better in Game 4 to regain the momentum. They need to do a better job of building a wall to prevent Antetokounmpo drives. They need to foul him less, and they need to keep their concentration and focus in the face of adversity. Such as, the third quarter of Game 3, when the Bucks repeatedly attempted free throws on close calls to the Celtics’ chagrin.

“This is what we all have dreamt of, being part of something that feels like this, to be able to be in a series with a great team,” Irving said. “Go out there and may the best man win. We’ll make a few adjustments and leave it all on the line. [I have to] just be smarter with the possessions. Defensively and offensively like I said, you just manage those runs better and we’ll put ourselves in a better position throughout the game.”


It’s up to Irving to manage the game, be the starting pitcher of sorts, to ensure the Celtics have a chance to win at the end. Game 3 was plagued with too many early turnovers, too much hero ball, and wasted possessions. Irving has to uplift his team by playing plays, getting his teammates involved, and stop trying to take on triple teams to verify his ability to score tough baskets. We all know he’s one of the best tough-shot makers in the NBA. But that’s exactly what the Bucks want Irving to do.

“I just gotta be me man, that’s the easiest part,” Irving said. “I think just painting a great picture, you just need help in doing so. Same mind-set that I’ve always had, just being aggressive, being patient, being able to be aware of the time of the game, where I need to make my impact, be in the right defensive positions, to be able to communicate with my teammates as well. That’s the easy part. That’s the fun part, that you just go out there and allow the flow of the game to dictate your instincts.”

Irving promised the communication would be better. He promised to be more like himself. He promised to delegate to his teammates when he needs to. He promises to lead his team to an improved effort and performance.

It’s not that Irving owes Boston something, but missing last postseason after knee surgery, he has not had an opportunity to produce as many signature playoff moments as he would like.


Boston hasn’t seen enough of Playoff Kyrie. Monday would be the most opportune time for that dude to make an appearance.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.