Tonight was a rough one. Despite losing a cornerstone of the team, the Celtics fought back against the Cavs only to be dismantled by the King in the final quarter. As anybody who watched the game would tell you, though, Boston showed a hell of a lot of heart.
THE GAME FLOW
Wow. As speechless as I was at the time, now I can only find myself saying how bad I feel for Gordon Hayward and his family. It doesn’t seem right that an injury so severe would happen not even half-way through the first quarter of the new season – to anybody – let alone a guy who just signed a max contract and moved to a new city. An injury like this left everybody sick to their stomach and unable to muster any words to describe the emotion.
For those that haven’t seen it, Gordon Hayward was rising towards the hoop, made contact with LeBron James and Jae Crowder, then came crashing down with his left leg caught under him. The only comment made after the initial injury was Kevin Harlan eerily repeating “Hayward has broken his leg. Hayward has broken his leg. Hayward has broken his leg” followed by “oh my gosh… oh my gosh”, in an appropriately panicked and horrified voice. The chilling atmosphere was compounded by a few solid minutes of pure silence from our commentators, along with crowd/player reaction. It was that bad. The only redeeming part of this story is learning of LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas (the man who played a major role in convincing him to come to Boston) going down into the Cavs locker room to check on him while he was receiving treatment during the game. This is the type of injury that makes a guy think of his future even beyond the sport, and we can only hope the best for Gordon and his family at this time.
As far as the game, well.. the entire team looked understandably out of it for much of the first half. The team surrendered a 14-2 run after the gruesome injury and then finished just 2-16 from 3 (a paltry 12.5%) through 2 quarters. To give some perspective on how piss poor the offense was running: both Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum combined to go 0-14 from the field, and they didn’t even stand out among the rest of the cold-as-ice crew. Fortunately for the Celtics, the Cavs had struggled to find their shot early as well and only connected on 25% of their shots from deep. After an emotional start to the game, the Celtics should consider themselves lucky to be trailing just 54-38.
The good news is that the team wasn’t going to let any of their first half play (or horrific accidents) define the game. Smart and Tatum, in particular, bounced back to shoot 8-10 from the field in the 3rd as they combined to score 20 of 33 total team points for the quarter. At one particularly orgasmic point, Jaylen and Jayson (now known as “The Jays”, according to me) went back-to-back and-1 finishes at the rim, and the fans could feel a brief shift in momentum towards the Celtics. Despite finding themselves down 18 at one point, Boston leveraged the Cavs sloppy play against them and stormed all the way back to trail by just 1 at the end of the third.
This didn’t stretch of feel-good basketball didn’t last long, however. Boston then proceeded to go scoreless for a string of four minutes towards the beginning of the 4th quarter and dug themselves another hole. Although Kyrie’s 3 ball eventually ended the skid, and some hustle defense made the game close in the end, the Cavs simply dug deeper and produced more when it mattered most. LeBron took over the 4th quarter by scoring 15 of his 29 points in the final frame, and Cleveland went on a timely 7-0 run with just :46 seconds to go, and a couple of 3PA by Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving couldn’t tie the game as seconds waned away. The Cavs experience and talent level ultimately won out. Final Score: 102-99.
HOT (AND NOT)
HOT: This is unconventional, but given the happenstances of the night, I’m giving it to the team’s heart. To continue to play a game after Hayward’s injury is unfathomable to me. As we saw in the preseason, the Celtics effort is not to be trifled with, but they further proved that tonight when it really counted. Led by tenacious defenders like Smart and Rozier, the C’s made life hell for the Cavs ball handlers in the 2nd half and forced 17 total turnovers. To put it simply, there’s only one way you’re coming back from an 18 point deficit after watching one of your best players absolutely mangle his leg: by displaying heart.
NOT: Jayson Tatum started this game about as cold as he possibly could have and had his name called for all of the wrong reasons. He began the game with a soft attempt at the rim that was subsequently blocked by LeBron James, then followed that up with a defensive 3 seconds. If that wasn’t rough enough, he picked up a foul shortly thereafter and Stevens mercifully pulled the rook. Luckily, he stormed back to finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds and impressed over the final 2 quarters. Tatum is now the first rookie to record a double-double in his Celtics debut since Larry Bird. Once he plays a complete game he’ll graduate from this NOT HOT list and present a major problem for opposing teams.
Well, first off, Kyrie Irving hitting this triple to put the C’s ahead in the 4th was euphoric. He finished with 22 points and demonstrated his willingness to pass by tallying up 10 assists against his former team tonight.
But Jaylen Brown also deserves special mention, as he scored a career high 25 points in an exhausting 40 minutes of play. Stevens has said all along he expects a major improvement from his 2nd-year pro and Brown showed glimpses of his progression tonight both defensively and offensively. Here’s a little of both for your viewing pleasure:
*Note LBJ making a business decision to get out of the way at the end of this*
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT???
Well, is there any other option other than the Hayward injury? We’re not going to show it here out of respect, but suffice to say it left Reggie Miller saying that he’s never seen anything like it. This was not a normal basketball injury and this will not be a normal recovery for Gordon Hayward. As much as we as fans may be disappointed with the loss of talent to our team, it’s more important that the city of Boston rally’s around our new star. But seriously.. what the hell just happened?