Kyrie Irving starts to heat up despite Boston's struggles

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After coming within one game of the NBA Finals last season, the Boston Celtics are struggling.

Talk of making a trade for a big star seems to be cropping up earlier than usual, along with the accompanying push-back and patience-preaching from Danny Ainge in the front office. But a trade eventually depends on how New Orleans are doing in the playoff picture, particularly before the February trade deadline.

Soon after, Randle's free throws and Darius Miller's 3 ignited an 11-2 Pelicans run to close the period, trimming Boston's lead to 10 heading to the fourth. That's how we've got to start playing for the rest of the year if we want to be one of those good teams in the East.

Rumors of a potential departure from New Orleans stemmed from when he parted ways with his agent to join Klutch Sports. However, Sheridan suggests the Celtics should look at trying to move the point guard this year.

But Boston should not be counted out. Boston is also said to be his preference. But lingering questions about Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball make the Celtics - who boast a wealth of future draft picks and a crop of talented young players led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier - the clear front-runner.

While not the most scoring-friendly backcourt (at least in comparison to other versions Stevens has rolled out this season), the Irving-Smart combination proved to make for an efficient night for the Celtics, with tremendous on-floor metrics.

"Even if we're missing (Davis), we have to play the right way and the right way is to be able to control the ball some", Gentry said. "It's going to be a Herschel Walker-type of deal to go get Davis".

Davis scored five straight points on a short fade as he was fouled and a pair of free throws to cut it to 93-87 with almost nine minutes to play. New Orleans committed 22 turnovers, tying a season-worst in that category. "How does that correlate?" "You know, in my head, I don't pay attention to it, I keep going back to it but it's the truth, I look at what I have now and what I can do now and that's helping my team win".

Coach Alvin Gentry, star Anthony Davis and the Pelicans have repeatedly said they are focused strictly on this season.

"That's my plan", Davis told reporters after the team's shootaround Monday morning.