Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 18, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.
LOS ANGELES - Kyrie Irving led by example on Friday, scoring 20 of his 38 points in the third quarter as his Boston Celtics defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 122-116.
Irving, coming off a 27-point, 18-assist performance in a win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, added 11 assists and seven rebounds as the Celtics won their second straight in the wake of a three-game skid.
Over his last two games, Irving has averaged 32.5 points on 62.5 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds and 14.5 assists.
In the wake of Wednesday's game, Irving made headlines with comments revealing he had called his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate LeBron James and apologized for how he handled criticism from James, noting that "sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world".
Irving had vented his frustration after a loss at Orlando on Saturday -- later saying he shouldn't have called out his teammates publicly. The backlash prompted his call to James.
Boston coach Brad Stevens said that 26-year-old Irving's play would be the ultimate expression of his leadership ability.
"Leadership starts with what you do on the court — he was pretty damn good on Wednesday night — and then it's about how you serve your teammates and then everything else is what it is," Stevens said before Friday's game. "Everything else follows suit from those two things."
Irving certainly stepped up on the court on Friday.
His third-quarter outburst helped the Celtics, who led by as many as 16 in the first half but trailed 62-58 at the interval, regain a five-point advantage heading into the final period that they wouldn't relinquish.
The Grizzlies pulled within 106-104 with 4:53 to play when Mike Conley was fouled on a basket and converted the free-throw for a three-point play.
But Irving produced eight fourth-quarter points and Al Horford had five as Boston's starters pushed to the finish to secure the win.
"We just stayed together," said Marcus Smart, who added 20 points, connecting on seven of nine shots from the field including six of eight from three-point range.
Smart called the win a "collective effort" but he admitted that with Irving playing so well his teammates were eager to get the ball to him "every single time".
"He does some outstanding things and as a player and as a fan to be out there with him to watch it is incredible," Smart said.