From Comcast SportsNetGAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- If there were any questions about Florida's status in the Southeastern Conference following a loss at Arkansas last week, the Gators put those to rest Tuesday night.With another lopsided win in league play.And against defending national champion Kentucky, which had freshman star Nerlens Noel go down with a knee injury.Scottie Wilbekin had 14 points and eight assists, Pat Young recorded his sixth double-double of the season and No. 7 Florida handled the 25th-ranked Wildcats 69-52.The Gators (20-3, 10-1 SEC) snapped a five-game losing streak in the series and improved to 12-0 at home.This one solidified Florida's spot atop the SEC."They're an outstanding basketball team," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "They were last year, they are this year. They're well coached, they're talented, they're very physical. Their guards are just jerking balls out of our guys' hands. We couldn't get near the basket on Young. He just physically took away the rim. And they're very active."The Wildcats (17-7, 8-3) lost for the first time in six games, and it may have been costly.Noel, the nation's leading shot-blocker, injured his left knee in the second half and was taken to a campus hospital for tests.Noel, a forward who averages 10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game, landed awkwardly on his leg with about 8 minutes to play. He screamed in pain as trainers rushed to his side. Teammates carried him to the locker room. After the game, trainers pushed him through the halls of the O'Connell Center in a wheelchair and with his left leg in a brace."I'm physically sick right now for him," Calipari said. "What I'm hoping is it's not the extreme. I'm hoping it's some sort of twist, but we don't know."Florida had a comfortable lead before the injury.The Gators opened a double-digit lead, 31-19, in the first half on consecutive 3-pointers by Wilbekin, Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton -- backbreaking shots that frustrated Calipari and had his players looking dazed and confused.Florida extended it to 16 points on Rosario's layup. It was the biggest deficit the Wildcats had faced all season.And they did little to erase it.Young and fellow big man Erik Murphy, who was in early foul trouble, carried the load in the second half.Young made a basket with a nifty, up-and-under move, had a reverse layup and added a sweet, left-handed hook. He finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks."When he gives incredible effort and plays with a really good motor, he's capable of getting double-doubles every night," said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who improved to 2-7 against Calipari. "He rebounded. He made great effort plays, kept balls alive. He did a really good job."Murphy drained a 3-pointer after taking a charge on the other end. He also had three blocks.The Gators needed big games from Young and Murphy considering they played a second game without forward Will Yeguete and were undersized against the Wildcats.Nonetheless, the difference was guard play.Wilbekin sliced through the lane at will, creating open shots for teammates and getting Kentucky's players out of position. Noel, Archie Goodwin and Willie Cauley-Stein spent time on the bench in foul trouble."I really thought he played an all-around, very, very good game," Donovan said of Wilbekin, who was benched to start Saturday's win against Mississippi State.Fellow guard Rosario finished with 12 points for Florida, which has won every conference game by double digits. Murphy chipped in 10 points, and Casey Prather added 12 points and two blocks and took several charges, proving again to be a capable replacement for Yeguete.Cauley-Stein and Julius Mays led Kentucky with 10 points apiece.The Wildcats shot 42 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers."We just played soft, scared, uptight," Mays said. "We let the pressure get to us. Usually, we're really good with the press. I don't know what it was today, but we just weren't tough enough."Calipari warned reporters Monday that beating Florida would be a difficult task, especially since the Gators have played so well at home and have a much more experienced roster.The most significant disparities came in the paint and off turnovers. The Gators scored 36 points in the paint and 20 points off turnovers; the Wildcats had 26 points down low and just five off Florida's 11 turnovers.Afterward, though, all the talk was about Noel's injury."I don't know what ended up happening, but it was clear from him moaning in pain that he was struggling," Donovan said. "I admire the way he plays and I admire his energy. I don't know how badly he's hurt, but the energy came from a hustle play. It kind of embodies who he is as a player. He's a hustle-play guy, and you just feel sad if there's any kind of length or duration that he's out because everybody admires in this league, coaches-wise, how he plays the game."
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.
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.
- Celtics lose Gordon Hayward to fractured left ankle
- Dr. Chihlas: Optimistically Gordon Hayward could be back by end of season
- Gorman: Gordon Hayward injury could deflate the Celtics for quite a while
- Isaiah Thomas visits Gordon Hayward in locker room after injury
- Paul George, J.J. Watt send Gordon Hayward wishes after gruesome injury
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.