Stevens pulls starters in Celtics loss; Kyrie doesn’t blame him

Kyrie Irving and the Celtics couldn't ever get it together vs. Jae Crowder and the Jazz.

How bad did things get for the Boston Celtics during Saturday’s 98-86 home loss to the Utah Jazz?

Bad enough that coach Brad Stevens decided to send his team a message by replacing the starters with a bunch of third-stringers.

“It’s hard, but those [third-string] guys watch all the time,” Stevens told reporters. “So they deserve the right to compete. And we didn’t have any legs, and we had just given up three dunks, and it is what it is. If we’re frustrated about that, it’s fine by me.”

The Celtics came out flat against the Jazz, who Boston faced one night after a thrilling overtime win over the Toronto Raptors.

The about-face in effort prompted NBC Sports Boston writer Chris Forsberg to refer to the Celtics as “bipolar.”

It also prompted Celtics star point guard Kyrie Irving to point out that some of the younger players who became a big deal last season probably have to even harder this year.

“I think last year, the young guys that are in the locker room now, some of the guys that are playing, they were a little bit younger,” Irving said. “They weren’t expected to do as much and I think that the amount of pressure that we put on them to perform every single night is something that they have to get used to, like being part of a great team like this.

“If you’re not playing to the standard then, as a team, we just don’t all click. I think once we get that, and we find that consistency, we’ll be good.”

Irving didn’t name any names, but it was indeed the younger players who struggled mightily against the Jazz.

Jaylen Brown scored three points on 1-of-9 shooting. Terry Rozier had four on 2-of-9. And while Jayson Tatum went for 10 points, he more or less seemed just sort of out there, not making much of a difference.

“Coach just wants us to go play hard for him, and he deserves that,” Irving said. “So I don’t blame him for saying we’re lacking toughness, at that point of just willing yourself to be in the right spots, and stay disciplined and be smart enough to follow the game plan.”

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