Celtics

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

Marcus Smart is fortunate to be returning this season

BOSTON – When it comes to sports-related injuries, much like the games that are played, it really does become a matter of inches.

For Marcus Smart, that minuscule a distance was the difference between his right-hand laceration after punching a picture frame keeping him sidelined for a few weeks or ending his season.

Fortunately for Smart, the former proved to be his fate as he rejoined the Celtics for practice on Wednesday after missing the previous 11 games.

“I’m back. It feels good to be back with these guys and the coaching staff,” Smart said.

But after the incident which required 20 stitches, Smart said the doctors explained to him how fortunate he was that the injury wasn’t more severe and wouldn’t require season-ending surgery.

“They pulled a glass piece out of the palm of my hand,” Smart said. “And they said there two tendons that ran along the pinkie and the glass was sitting right in between them.

Smart said if the glass would have hit the tendons he would have most likely had to have season-ending surgery.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was aware of how close Boston was at losing Smart for the rest of the season.

“It was … I’m sure he would second this, it wasn’t a very good move,” Stevens said. “You don’t want to put yourself in that risk. Luckily, what happened, happened. His hand looks a lot better and that is encouraging.”

Said Smart: “I felt I let my team down. But I got a second chance to come back and redeem myself.”

As reported by NBC Sports Boston earlier today, Smart has been given the medical clearance to suit up for Boston’s next game which is at Detroit on Friday.

His return comes at a time when the Celtics (40-19) are looking to get back on track after what has been a rough patch of games recently.

Boston has lost three straight and four of its last five games. And the lone victory was an overtime win against the Washington Wizards.

Since Smart’s injury, the Celtics have gone 6-5 in his absence.

And within those 11 games, Boston’s numbers on several fronts have taken a slight dip.

Boston’s top-ranked defense slipped down to No. 11 with a defensive rating of 105.2 within the last 11 games missed by Smart.

And the success Boston has experienced this season has been heavily influenced by the play of Smart.

His defensive rating this season is 98.9 which stands out on several levels, the most notable one being how he stacks up against others defensively that log major minutes.

Among players that average at least 30 minutes per game, Smart’s defensive rating of 98.9 is tops among in the league with teammates Jayson Tatum (99.8, third in the league), Jaylen Brown (100.3, fifth) and Al Horford (101.0, seventh) all ranked among the league’s leaders.

Not surprisingly, Smart’s teammates are excited to have him back in the fold.

“There’s no question having Marcus back, makes our defense a lot better,” Horford said.

Boston’s Kyrie Irving echoed similar sentiments about Smart.

“He adds a very unique understanding of the game, at both ends of the floor,” Irving said. “We all know how great he is defensively, so he adds to our team … it’s great.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

Marcus Smart cleared to play Friday

According to league sources, Celtics guard Marcus Smart was back in Boston on Tuesday and had a private workout with the team. He has been officially cleared to practice tonight and play Friday when the Celtics return after the All-Star break to play the Pistons in Detroit.

Smart has been out since he lacerated his hand swiping at a picture frame in his hotel room after a Celtics' loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 25.

The Celtics have lost three in a row and four of five heading into the All-Star break to drop behind the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the East and losing Smart's defense has been a key part of their recent slump.