Kyrie Irving is relishing the challenge of leading the Boston Celtics into battle against the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks as their first-round series continues to heat up.
Irving is coming off one of his worst playoff performances in Game 2, which saw him finish with just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting in their 123-102 Game 2 loss and despite his struggles, the 27-year-old is confident he bounce back, while helping keep the focus on the floor.
"I've been playing basketball a lot longer than some of these people analysing the game," Irving said via ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. "I'm an actual genius when it comes to this game.
"If you ask me about basketball, I will talk all day. If you ask me about spacing at the 3:33 mark of the second quarter, I will gladly explain it. I'll tell you what plays worked, about adjustments we make. But when it comes to personal things, or comparing myself to my NBA brothers, like, 'Do you think you are better than this guy?' I'm out."
With the series currently tied at 1-1, Irving knows the pressure is on him late in games to lead his squad, something he has more than enough experience with as one of the league's best playoff performers. He currently holds the highest win percentage (75.8%) of any player who has played at least 50 playoff games in NBA history.
"In order to find happiness, you have to find the balance in all this," he said. "So, I'm not going to keep talking about what works for me, or what I'm struggling with, knowing I'm not proving anything to anybody because the work is being done by me.
"I don't need to show anybody what I'm doing as a leader or as a person or as a basketball player. I'm going to miss shots in some games, I'm going to make some shots in games. It's the ups and downs of a season. I'm not investing in, 'Oh, this is his team, he needs to do more, he needs to step up.' It's just stupid."
The struggles of the regular season seem like a distant memory for Celtics fans, with Boston saving some of their best basketball for the playoffs so far, but will that be enough to get past the Bucks?
Irving is averaging 23.8 points, 7.7 assists and five rebounds, shooting 42.1% from the field and 38.9% from the three-point line through six playoff games this season.