The Boston Celtics headed into the 2018-19 NBA season as the heavy favorite to dominate the LeBron James-less Eastern Conference. The return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward made most people believe that the Celtics have what it takes to beat the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven series. The high expectations for the Celtics are definitely not a surprise, especially with the things they accomplished last season despite losing Hayward and Irving to injury.
However, since the 2018-19 NBA season started, the Celtics have failed to live up to expectations and don’t look like the best team in the Eastern Conference. Aside from their struggles, drama and frustrations have started to build around the Celtics. In their recent loss to the Orlando Magic, Kyrie Irving was caught having a heated argument with Gordon Hayward after the final play.
With less than three seconds remaining in the game, the Celtics had the opportunity to tie or win the game against the Magic. Gordon Hayward was tasked with inbounding the ball, while Kyrie Irving was trying to get in a better position to take the final shot. Unfortunately, instead of passing the ball to Irving, Hayward gave it to Jayson Tatum, who missed a contested fadeaway jumper.
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) January 13, 2019
A frustrated Kyrie Irving immediately headed to Gordon Hayward’s location to ask for an explanation. In a post-game interview, Hayward talked about his decision to pass the ball to Jayson Tatum instead of Irving.
“JT (Jayson Tatum) on the curl was the first option I looked at,” Hayward told reporters following the loss, via NBC Sports Boston. “It didn’t go in.”
Gordon Hayward admitted that he’s well-aware that Kyrie Irving wanted to take the final shot, but he strongly believes that he made the right decision to let Tatum have it.
“He (Irving) would have liked for me to pass to Al (Horford) and have him (Irving) cut off of it,” Hayward said. “It’s late clock and we’ve worked on that play before and I’ve seen JT hit that in practice countless times so it was a good shot.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t seem to have any problem with the final play, saying that Jayson Tatum got a quality look at the basket. Kyrie Irving agreed with Stevens and refused to give any further comments about his verbal exchange with Gordon Hayward.
“Next question,” Irving said when asked about his reaction, via ESPN. “JT got a good look, so let’s move on.”