Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

Jayson Tatum flashes potential with double-double debut

CLEVELAND – Jayson Tatum has seen plenty of games featuring Cleveland’s LeBron James.

And in the Boston Celtics’ preparation for Tuesday night’s matchup, the 19-year-old rookie had seen plenty of James on film.

But facing him, up close and personal, was something entirely different.

“He’s way bigger than I thought,” Tatum said. “He’s way better than I imagined. That’s the reason why he is who he is.”

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James’ play was among the key factors in Cleveland handing Boston a 102-99 loss on Tuesday night.

But Tatum showed he too has some big-time potential by finishing with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds which included some nifty drives to the basket as well as showing the ability to hold his own on the glass in terms of rebounding the basketball.

The last Celtics rookie to post a double-double on opening night?

That was Larry Bird back in 1980, helping the Celtics to a 114-106 win over the Houston Rockets.

What’s even crazier?

Bird had 14 points and 10 rebounds in that Rockets game, too.

Tatum’s solid performance didn’t seem in the making in the first half when Tatum had missed all five of his shot attempts while tallying just two points.

But as the Celtics mounted their comeback, Tatum’s play was a key to the team’s improved play.

“Just being more relaxed” was how Tatum described his improved play in the second half.

Tatum added, “first half, I think I was nervous and anxious. And then the game slowed down for me. That helped out a lot.”

And the Celtics will need even more from Tatum going forward after Gordon Hayward’s left ankle injury that will keep him sidelined indefinitely.

There was plenty of room for him to improve upon following Tuesday’s game.

But for the most part, head coach Brad Stevens liked what he saw from the rookie.

“Jayson was pretty good,” Stevens said. “He did a pretty good job for a first game. That’s pretty hard to do, to be thrown into this environment, first game and play that well.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Rivals, but 'a brotherhood at the end of the day'

Stars, studs and duds: Rivals, but 'a brotherhood at the end of the day'

CLEVELAND – The Boston Celtics have moved well past silver linings when it comes to losing games. Regardless of the circumstances, they came up short, 102-99, to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the season opener for both teams.
 
There were several players for both teams that played well, giving their respective clubs a shot at victory. But their play took a back seat to the story of the night which was Boston’s Gordon Hayward suffering a left ankle injury just five minutes into the game.
 
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said Hayward suffered a dislocated ankle and a fractured tibia, with surgery slated for Wednesday.

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“It’s a tough deal,” Stevens said. “But that’s part of it, the risk of injury.”
 
Such a gruesome injury certainly affects the Celtics, but its impact was felt in the Cavs locker room as well.
 
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon and his family,” said LeBron James. “Hope for a speedy recovery and a healthy recovery.”
 
Dwyane Wade had similar sentiments for Hayward.
 
“This is a competitive game. We all compete,” Wade said. “But it’s a brotherhood at the end of the day and no one wants to see that at all, so our prayers go out to them for a great recovery for him.”
 
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Cleveland’s 102-99 win over Boston.
 
STARS
 
LeBron James

Despite being a game-time decision, James shook off whatever ankle issues he had leading up to tip-off, and delivered down the stretch once again. He would finish with a near triple-double which included a game-high 29 points along with 16 rebounds (also a game-high) and nine assists.
 
Jaylen Brown

The second-year forward stepped up for the Celtics when Hayward went down, finishing with a career-high 25 points along with six rebounds and three steals.
 
Kevin Love

He scored 15 points, but his 3-pointer from the corner with less than a minute to play would prove to be the game-winner for the Cavaliers. In addition to his scoring, he also grabbed 11 rebounds.
 
 

STUDS
 

Jayson Tatum

Making his first NBA start, Tatum finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds and in doing so, became the first Celtics rookie since Larry Bird to tally a double-double in his first NBA game.
 
Derrick Rose

He didn’t shoot the ball well but hit some timely shots when it mattered, among them being a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that gave Cleveland a 72-71 lead. He would finish with 14 points and 4 rebounds along with two assists.
 
 

DUDS
 
Three-point shooting

It’s early. I get it. But both teams, if they’re going to be the last teams standing, have to do better. Boston was 8-for-32 from 3-point range (25 percent) and the Cavs were even worst, shooting 22.7 percent on 5-for-22 from 3-point range.

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Celts' rally after Hayward injury falls short in 102-99 loss to Cavs

Celts' rally after Hayward injury falls short in 102-99 loss to Cavs

CLEVELAND – Adversity has been a given with the Boston Celtics, so why would the season opener be any different? 

Despite being without their prized free agent signing in the offseason for all but the first five minutes against Cleveland, the Celtics gave themselves a chance to win down the stretch only to come up short in a 102-99 loss.

Boston led in the fourth only for LeBron James to score a go-ahead basket to make it 99-98 and then force a Celtics turnover seconds later.

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Following a time-out with 1:04 to play, Kevin Love hit a 3-pointer with 46.3 seconds to play to make it a 102-98 game.

The loss certainly hurts, but that pales in comparison to what losing Gordon Hayward for most if not all of this season, means to the Celtics after Hayward went down with fractured left ankle injury in the first quarter.

With the Celtics ahead 12-9, Kyrie Irving saw Hayward sprinting towards the rim and threw him an alley-oop pass.

LeBron James slid over and leaped to try and deflect it, which threw Hayward off balance in mid-air.

But Hayward didn’t land cleanly because ex-Celtic Jae Crowder, who was defending him on the play, made contact with Hayward’s lower body that resulted in an awkward landing for Hayward.

Video replays showed how contorted Hayward’s left ankle was, the kind of gruesome image that was in some ways reminiscent to the knee injury that derailed the career of Shaun Livingston.
 
While Livingston eventually returned to the floor and won a pair of NBA titles with the Golden State Warriors, but he was never the same player afterwards.
 
It’s far too soon to say exactly how Hayward’s injury will impact him this season, let alone for his career. 
 
But there is no mistaking seeing him go down the way he did, clearly rattled the Celtics and for that matter, the NBA family. 
 
Current and former NBA players took to social media offering of prayers of healing for Hayward, who was named to his first NBA All-Star team last season and signed a four-year, $127.8 million contract with the Celtics this summer. 
 
As for the actual game, the Cavaliers steadily pulled away in the second quarter and remained in control for most of the second half in a victory that certainly had to feel a bit shallow.
 
It wasn’t because the Celtics were undermanned without Hayward, but more important, because he’s part of the NBA family and regardless of how competitive players are, they never, ever like to see one of their own go down with such a devastating injury. 
 
Moments after Hayward went down, the looks of disappointment and pain were apparent. Inside the Celtics huddle, you saw Kyrie Irving’s head in the shoulder of a teammate.
 
Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas, now with the Cavs, was inside the Cavaliers locker room which is where they took Hayward initially. 
 
When Thomas left, he nodded, and shook his head, saddened by what he saw in the locker room. 
 
Despite the pain that all the Celtics were in following Hayward’s injury, there was still a game that had to be played. 
 
And anything less than their best against the defending Eastern Conference champions, would make for a long night. 
 
But the Celtics showed a resiliency in the third quarter that saw them climb back into things and made it a relatively close game. 
 
Trailing 54-38 at the half, Boston tied the game at 69 following a Marcus Smart free throw, followed by a go-ahead basket by Smart that put Boston on top 71-69. 
 
However, the Cavs ended the quarter with a 3-pointer by Derrick Rose which put them ahead 72-71 going into the fourth, an envious position for the Celtics all things considered. 
 
Even if the Celtics had been whole with Hayward, defeating the Cavs was going to be an extremely tall task.
 
They have after all, been to the NBA Finals each of the last three seasons and are the odds-on favorite to get back there for a fourth straight year. 
 
But the Celtics lost more than a key player when Hayward went down. 
 
They lost their focus, that intangible edge to their team that was supposed to be one of their strengths against a Cleveland team that has plenty of firepower and weapons of its own. 
 
The good news for both teams is that regardless of who came out on top, there are lessons to be learned for both teams. 
 
Unfortunately for the Celtics, those lessons going forward are likely to come about without Hayward in the lineup for some time. 

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