Keys to the Game: Cavaliers 102, Celtics 99
Box Score Nuggets
Quote of the Night
The Boston Celtics were shaken to the core Tuesday night when Gordon Hayward gruesomely fractured his ankle just five minutes and 15 seconds into their season-opener in Cleveland. At that point, Hayward’s teammates could’ve easily collapsed to the floor as well.
Instead, they responded with as gritty and as heartfelt of an effort as they possibly could have mustered under the circumstances, by nearly upsetting the Cavaliers in comeback fashion.
The Celtics understandably struggled immediately following Hayward's injury as they attempted to regroup and regain their focus. Their offense was out of sync, as they mustered only 38 first-half points and fell into an 18-point hole.
The C’s must’ve discovered a newfound sense of hope during halftime, because they came out of the break looking like an entirely different team, and did a heck of a job rallying for their fallen teammate.
Marcus Smart – unsurprisingly – was main source of energy during Boston’s third-quarter comeback. After not scoring a single point during the first half, the 23-year-old guard played like a man on a mission out of the break. He tallied 12 points during the third quarter alone, and helped the C’s outscore the Cavs 33-18 during the frame.
Boston entered the fourth quarter facing a slim, 72-69 deficit, and battled back-and-forth with the Cavaliers until the final buzzer.
It came down to the final possession, with all eyes fittingly on Kyrie Irving as he attempted to boost Boston to a win in his first return to Cleveland.
The Celtics were trailing 102-99 with just six seconds remaining, and had one final chance after LeBron James missed what would have been a game-sealing 3-pointer.
Jayson Tatum corralled James' miss and quickly fed the rock to Jaylen Brown, who streaked upcourt with the hope of tying the game. His pullup attempt from deep clanked off the back of the rim, but James gave the C’s one last ray of hope when he batted the rebound straight to Irving, who was stationed behind the 3-point arc.
Irving, who had scored 10 points during the previous nine minutes, pump-faked as James charged toward him and then sidestepped into an off-balance, game-tying attempt. The shot looked like it was perfectly in line with the basket off his fingertips, but fell just inches short of the rim as time expired.
It was an unfortunate ending to a devastating night for the Celtics. However, their effort to rise up in the face of adversity was inspiring, as they showed that they have the grit and determination to move on despite losing one of their stars.
Someone needed to step up and take on a heavy scoring load for Boston, after Gordon Hayward exited the game in the first quarter with a horrific ankle injury.
That someone turned out to be Jaylen Brown.
The 20-year-old sophomore starter showed poise beyond his years, as he notched a career-best 25 points on 11-of-23 shooting. He was also strong on the defensive end, as he corralled six rebounds and tied a game high with three steals.
The most promising aspect of Brown's game, however, came on the offensive side of the ball. He displayed incredible confidence driving to the basket, as he shot 9-of-14 inside the 3-point arc.
Looking ahead, that type of explosive offense will be greatly needed from Brown, now that the Celtics will be without Hayward for the foreseeable future.
Box Score Nuggets
- Jaylen Brown scored a career-best 25 points on 11-of-23 shooting.
- LeBron James finished one assist shy of a triple-double, as he notched 29 points, 16 rebounds and nine dimes.
- Kyrie Irving tallied 22 points and 10 assists during his first game back in Cleveland.
- The Celtics had 24 assists to Cleveland's 19.
- Jayson Tatum notched a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) during his NBA debut.
- Marcus Smart tallied 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks off the bench.
- Boston committed just 10 turnovers to Cleveland's 17.
- Brown, Irving and Terry Rozier had three steals apiece.
- Cleveland snagged just two steals as a team.
- Boston shot just 25 percent from 3-point range, but Cleveland was even worse with a 22.7 percent clip.
- The Cavs edged the C's on the glass with a 49-46 rebounding advantage.
- Boston scored 33 points during the third quarter, after scoring just 38 during the first half.
Quote of the Night
Those are the injuries that you never see coming and you never want to happen, no matter who it is, no mature what the stature, no matter how much competitive nature that you have. It’s just very unfortunate.
LeBron James' response to Gordon Hayward's injury.