Even the most ardent Green Teamers won’t deny there’s been apparent tension on the Celtics this season. But that doesn’t mean the C’s can’t make a playoff run, as evidenced by their 128-95 thumping of the Warriors on Tuesday.
During TNT’s halftime show, Shaquille O’Neal, who won three championships with his frenemy Kobe Bryant in the early aughts, said it doesn’t matter whether the Celtics actually like each other. But they must respect each other, which might be why Kyrie Irving now saying he’ll just refer to his younger cohorts as “teammates” could be a significant step towards the Celtics coming together for the stretch run.
“You gotta respect each other,” O’Neal said. “If you’re the main guy, you have to make sure everybody eats. If you feed everyone, they work hard for you. If you starve them out, they’re not going to play defense, they’re not going to rebound, they’re not going to want to be around you. All of that stuff about you’ve got to get along? It’s a myth. As long as you respect each other and make the right play, you win games.”
The Celtics certainly shared the ball Tuesday, tallying 23 assists on 29 field goals in the first half. They finished with 38 assists overall.
Irving recorded one of his more complete performances of the season, with 19 points and 11 assists to garner a +20 on the night. Gordon Hayward was on the receiving end of several dishes and finished with 30 points.
One game does not mean the Celtics’ problems are solved, of course. But they showed what they’re capable of. Maybe the locker room isn’t so “toxic” after all.
Or maybe it is, and they've found a way to play together anyway, as Shaq suggests.