Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving has not played since march due to a knee injury. In this picture, Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on before Game Five against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden on May 9, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens says it is “killing” Kyrie Irving not being able to play in the Eastern Conference Finals, more so because they are playing his former team — Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving asked for a trade at the end of last season and joined the Celtics prior to the start of the current campaign. He made an immediate impact and was instrumental in helping them finish as the second seeds in the east.

However, the Celtics point guard was unable to complete the regular season owing to a knee injury. It was initially reported to be a minor issue, but it was later confirmed he will miss the rest of the season as it needed him to undergo surgery to rectify the problem.

Irving’s withdrawal and Gordon Hayward’s absence saw many predict their downfall in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. They were not expected to make the finals, but they went against the script with convincing wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and the much fancied Philadelphia 76ers in the first two rounds.

Stevens admits that Irving is itching to be on the floor against his former team, but revealed that he was in a good place despite his injury troubles. The Celtics guard is expected to return for the start of next season, and the coach confirmed that his recovery process is on track.

“In our sit-downs or just our casual conversations, he seems to be in a great place," Stevens said, as quoted by ESPN. "It's killing him not to be out on the floor. But I think that would be the case, obviously, any time you're playing this deep into the playoffs, especially in a new place. Other than that, his recovery is going great. We're excited about that. But he seems to be in a good place."

Stevens, meanwhile, also spoke about his decision to reshuffle his lineup for Game 5 against the Cavaliers. He opted to start power forward Aron Baynes, while dropping Marcus Morris to the bench. And Semi Ojeleye received a DNP-CD after having played nine minutes in the previous game.

The changes worked as the Celtics defense limited the Cavaliers to just 83 points to record a 13 point victory and take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series. Stevens refused to elaborate on his decision but made it clear that his tactics were not based on any players’ poor performances.

"There's a lot that goes into it, and I'll leave it at that," Stevens said, as quoted on "But it has nothing to do with the guys that didn't play because I think all those guys are ready to help when called upon and have great attitudes and have been great teammates and prepared just as hard and well for their time as the guys who did."

Game 6 of the best of seven Eastern Conference Finals will see the teams return to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland with the LeBron James-led Cavaliers looking to level the series. The game will tip off at 8.30 p.m. EDT with live TV coverage provided by ESPN in the United States.