Celtics

Celtics cut minutes of Big Four in Game 4

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Celtics cut minutes of Big Four in Game 4

BOSTON In the course of a long playoff run, there are bound to be nights when the stars align perfectly and the basketball gods reward players and teams with a near-perfect night of basketball.

You could say the Boston Celtics had one of those nights in whipping the Atlanta Hawks, 101-79, in Game 4 on Sunday.

More than just a win, the C's also got another added benefit with the lopsided victory -- rest for their core guys.

For most of this series, Boston's Big Four have been logging big minutes.

Pierce came into Game 4 averaging more than 40 minutes per game, the kind of postseason court time Pierce hasn't seen in a decade.

Ray Allen was still working himself into form, playing in just his second game after missing nearly a month due to a right ankle injury. In his first game back (Game 3), he played 37 minutes - more than anyone anticipated heading into the game.

And then there's Kevin Garnett, whose minutes are always a concern to Rivers and have been an even greater concern in the playoffs because of how high they were in the first three games.

That all changed on Sunday.

Pierce led all scorers with 24 points, but did so in less than 17 minutes. "He came out extremely focused," said C's guard Keyon Dooling. "10-for-13 in 16 minutes is pretty amazing."

Garnett had 13 points and five rebounds, doing so in 27 minutes. Ray Allen was on the floor for 19 minutes and finished with 12 points.

The only Celtic player from among the Big Four to play a good deal of minutes was Rondo, who had 20 points and 16 assists with just one turnover, while seeing a team-high 35 minutes of court action.

While the reason for their reduced minutes - a blowout win - is the kind of thing the Celtics will take everyday, it does raise the always-relevant argument between rest vs. rhythm.

"Players like to play," Rivers said. "I always tell you guys that; they really do. I mean, if you gave them their druthers they would probably say, 'well I'd rather play 30 minutes,' because they're rhythmic; they like playing."

But Rivers sees the big picture in all this.

If Boston is to make the kind of deep playoff run they're anticipating, it's sure to take a lot out of all their players, especially the Big Three and Rondo.

So any opportunity this time of year to get them some added rest and still win, has to be embraced for all its worth.

"If you can get two or three of these type of games," Rivers said. "Then it has to help."

Stats: Jayson Tatum is pretty much Larry Bird

Stats: Jayson Tatum is pretty much Larry Bird

Stop comparing Jayson Tatum to Paul Pierce. Turns out he's Larry Bird. Numbers don't lie.

In posting 14 points and 10 rebounds, Tatum became the first Celtics player to notch a double-double in his NBA debut since Larry Bird in 1979. Numbers also suggest that Bird went on to be very good, so that pretty much settles it. You can't just accept the numbers that say Bird was great and ignore the numbers that say Jayson Tatum is Larry Bird. You've got to accept all the numbers. Cherry-picking certain stats for your argument is what Mike Felger does. 

Tatum, who was the apple of Danny Ainge’s eye in the draft when he traded down from the first overall pick to the third spot, finished third on the C’s in scoring in Tuesday’s loss to the Cavs. Jaylen Brown led the way with a career-high 25 points, while Kyrie Irving posted 24.

Shorthanded Celtics fall short in 102-99 loss to Cavs

Shorthanded Celtics fall 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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