Celtics

Does Kevin Durant's injury make a Kyrie Irving return to Boston more likely?

Does Kevin Durant's injury make a Kyrie Irving return to Boston more likely?

It seems crass to think of anything but the long-term well-being of Kevin Durant after he suffered an Achilles injury Monday night after rushing himself back to game action with the goal of keeping the Golden State Warriors’ season alive. Alas, here’s the sobering reality: The NBA offseason just got dealt a curveball that could radically alter how this summer’s game of high-stakes musical chairs plays out.

If Durant tore his Achilles during Monday’s game, it would seemingly put his entire 2019-20 season in jeopardy. Golden State general manager Bob Myers fought back tears during an impromptu postgame press conference in which he noted that Durant would undergo an MRI on Tuesday to determine the severity of his Achilles injury.

Even with the prospects of missing extended time, Durant might still have a bevy of deep-pocketed suitors eager to sign him to a long-term deal. But he’d also have to give great consideration to simply opting into the final year of his current pact, one that’s scheduled to pay him $31.5 million next season, forcing the Warriors to foot the bill of his recovery after he sacrificed himself for the team.

Here’s the impact for Boston: If Durant and Kyrie Irving were truly intrigued by the potential of pairing up this summer, Durant’s injury could force an audible. Is Irving as eager to take his talents to New York — whether it’s the Knicks or Nets — if Durant can’t play next season? Might Irving be more inclined now to sign, say, a short-term 1-and-1 deal in Boston and then both he and Durant could reevaluate their respective futures after the 2019-20 season?

It’s always felt like Durant’s decision would have a domino effect among star players this summer. Maybe it still will, but there’s a lot more for players to ponder.

All of which adds a bit more intrigue to what happens with Anthony Davis in the ramp-up to next week’s NBA Draft. If Durant’s injury gives Irving even more reason to consider staying in Boston, then the Celtics going all-in to acquire Davis could ensure Irving stays here.

That would leave an awful lot riding on the 2019-20 season for the Celtics, who could potentially be trying to sell both Irving and Davis on a long-term future here with the potential that both could bolt if things went awry. That said, it’s probably a dice roll that Danny Ainge is willing to make.

Remember, not only would the Warriors be diminished by Durant’s absence but the East wouldn’t be as daunting as it might have been if Durant formed a super team in the conference.

Ainge’s words from his press conference last week reverberate loudly in the aftermath of Durant’s injury.

"There's always risk in making deals,” said Ainge. "We’re not afraid of risk.”

Maybe Durant’s injury emboldens Ainge even more. Maybe Durant’s injury alters Davis’ wish list of teams, which hasn’t included Boston since the start of his trade request. (Quick tangent: Davis not having the Celtics on his wishlist might actually give Boston a bit of leverage as they try to retain as much talent as possible in any negotiations as Ainge can cling hard to the flight risk potential if Pelicans new GM David Griffin is trying to pry more assets).

The summer of 2019 won’t lack for intrigue and Durant’s injury might have just shuffled the deck before any of the the craziness even started.

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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

So. Close. 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning floater as time expired hit seemingly every part of the rim, paused for a moment before rolling out as time expired in Boston’s 100-99 loss to Sacramento. 

‘It was a good look in that moment,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. 

The loss snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak, in addition to preventing them from being the first team in NBA history to win 11 in a row after dropping the season opener.

Sacramento (5-7), after dropping their first five games this season, have now won five of their last seven with the lone losses being a road game at defending NBA champion Toronto and a controversial defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.  

After spending most of the first half playing catch-up, the Celtics — in all-too predictable form — swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the third quarter to take a 75-71 lead into the fourth quarter despite the offensive fireworks put on by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (game-high 35 points). 

In the fourth, Boston’s slim lead didn’t last long with the Kings tying the game at 75 less than a minute into the quarter, only for Carsen Edwards to drain a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top, 78-75.

Things remained close for the rest of the game before Smart’s potential game-winner rolled out as time expired.  

Here are some takeaways from Boston’s one-point loss at Sacramento.

KEMBA IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

We have come to expect the best from Kemba Walker when the game matters most: the fourth quarter. That was not the case on Sunday, with Walker going scoreless in the fourth quarter to finish with just 15 points. You certainly love the season-high nine assists he tallied, but Walker’s greatest impact on this team night-in, night-out is his scoring down the stretch.

BUDDY HIELD 

The Kings gave Hield a four-year contract extension worth as much as $106 million, and he showed on Sunday why he's worth every penny. Time and time again, he came up with one big shot after another while often being draped by Boston's best perimeter defender — and one of the best in the NBA — Marcus Smart.  Hield led all scorers with 35 points on an efficient 14-for-24 shooting performance from the field.

TURNOVERS

One of the biggest keys to the Celtics’ fast start to the season has been their ability to limit their mistakes. They came into Sunday’s game averaging a league-low 11.7 per game. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half alone.

SEMI (OJELEYE) AUTOMATIC

Ojeleye hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, capping off a 7-0 Celtics run to bring Boston within four points (36-32) with 6:30 to play in the first half. He would finish the day with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including a career-high-tying three 3-pointers. It was indeed a breakout scoring game for Ojeleye who came into Sunday’s game having scored just 14 points in Boston’s 11 games this season. 

THEIS IS NICE

While his play doesn’t necessarily find a home on the Celtics’ highlight reel, there’s no getting around the impact that Daniel Theis continues to make on this team. Usually he does it by excelling at intangibles such as setting screens, boxing out and rolling to the basket. But on Sunday, Theis’s impact was made in the more traditional sense: getting points. He finished with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season. It was also the second time in the last three games Theis has reached double figures scoring. 

LINE ‘EM UP

The Celtics did not shoot the ball well against the Kings, but their aggressive play offensively led to a number of trips to the free throw line, which was a huge difference-maker in the game’s outcome. For the game, the Celtics were 21-for-24 from the line, compared to the Kings who were just 10-for-12 at the free throw line, which included Richaun Holmes’ game-winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.