USA Today Sports

Celtics need more than just Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum

Josue Pavon
November 12, 2018 - 7:20 am

For the first time this season, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum each delivered exceptional offensive performances for the Celtics.

Prior to Sunday night, both players had a few impressive games under their belts heading into the contest against the Trailblazers but had been unable to put it together on the same night. When Tatum scored 23 points against the Sixers in the season opener, Irving went 2-of-14 and when Irving dropped a season-high 39 points against the Nuggets, Tatum finished the night with four points. Irving and Tatum never came close to both scoring 20-plus points in the same night throughout this young season.

But when they both caught fire in the second half the Celtics seemed destined to put together another comeback win, this time over the Trailblazers. Tatum scored 12 straight points in the third quarter, with Irving rattling off 15 of his own. But it still wasn't enough for Boston to erase its 21-point deficit, leading to a 100-94 loss in Portland. (For a complete recap, click here.) 

In Phoenix, Irving put the team on his back. Tatum did the same against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. Those resulted in wins. This one did not, even with Irving (21 points) and Tatum (27 points) combining for more than half of the Celtics' total points.

Sunday marked the third consecutive game in which Boston trailed its opponent by double figures at the half and it was the first night of the five-game road trip where the Celtics never held a single lead.

Crawling out of a double-digit hole on the back of Irving may have worked against a team like the Suns, but it wasn't going to fly in Portland. The Celtics have to find a way to keep the game relatively close before it's too late to make a difference and it starts on the defensive end, where Brad Stevens has always been able to get the best from his players on that end of the floor. 

After leading the league in defensive efficiency throughout the month of October, the Celtics are now ranked 27th in defensive rating (111.7). A tremendous drop from the beginning of the season, and if they want to turn things around it's going to take more than simply relying on the production of Irving and Tatum. 

Portland (10-3) managed to survive the big second half by Irving and Tatum through its defensive stops and well-balanced attack, not surprising for a team that currently holds the NBA's fourth-best record. The Celtics finish their five-game road trip with a 1-4 record and will look to avoid a potential .500 record against the Bulls on Wednesday at TD Garden.