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Neither the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers have the services of Kyrie Irving in their current Eastern Conference Finals, but in Game One it was obvious that the Cavaliers miss him more.

These are certainly not the same teams that met in the Eastern Finals last year. When Irving was shipped to Boston, Lebron James lost a sidekick who at times was as unstoppable on the court as he was.

Prior to his knee surgery, Kyrie proved as potent an offensive weapon with Boston as he displayed in Cleveland. He was definitely in the discussion for Most Valuable Player.

The early loss of Gordon Hayward, and the later loss of Irving to injuries has had one very bright side - the early development and emergence of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. The Three Amigos have stepped up their game and have transitioned into a potent trio.

The Celtics got a taste of Kyrie's abilities in Game Five of the Boston/Cleveland series last season. This is a partial analysis of that game by Boston.Com's Chad Finn:

But it was not LeBron (James) who seized command of that game. It was Kyrie Irving, who for 2½ quarters was as unstoppable as unstoppable can be.

Irving scored a dozen of the Cavs’ final 14 points in that first half, including 10 in a row, almost single-handedly cutting the Celtics lead from that high of 16 with 5½ minutes left to 10 at the break (57-47).

It was a tour-de-force half-quarter of basketball for Irving, who seemed to be able to overcome any degree of difficulty thrown at him in his creative quest to get to the hoop.

But as it turned out, he was just warming up.

Irving torched the Celtics for 21 points in the third quarter, including 10 after rolling his ankle on a made shot with 1: 50 left in the quarter and the Cavs leading, 77-72.

On one basket he appeared to levitate at the front of the rim until any Celtic futilely attempting to protect it lost the battle with gravity.

On another, just before the buzzer, he crossed over Terry Rozier (who wasn’t yet scary) just for the sport of it, then knocked down a 3-point from 26 feet, slapping an exclamation point on the end of the Cavs’ 87-80 lead.

It was the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Isiah Thomas’s 25-point third quarter while playing on a bum ankle against the Lakers in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. I won’t argue with anyone who thinks Irving’s was flashier.

Lebron doesn't have that sidekick any more, and he may be feeling the negative effects. We have him, even though he can't play in this series. Can you imagine a starting five next season of Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen brown and Jayson Tatum? That looks like a team that could beat anybody!

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America



Tom Lane 5/15/2018 08:24:00 AM Edit
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