Celtics

Gordon Hayward returns, home (is still) sweet home, and other takeaways from Celtics win over Cavs

Gordon Hayward returns, home (is still) sweet home, and other takeaways from Celtics win over Cavs

BOSTON -- Seeing as how the Boston Celtics season has gone relative to the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was the potential for a Celtics letdown on Monday. 

Instead of a letdown, the Celtics (17-5) let loose with a dominant performance to cap off their three-game home stand the same way all their games this season have ended at the TD Garden - with a win - as Boston cruised to a 110-88 win over Cleveland (5-18).

The Cavs made things mildly interesting in the fourth quarter before Kemba Walker drained back-to-back 3’s to push Boston’s lead to 103-83 with 3:32 to play.

Much of the attention coming into Monday’s game was on Gordon Hayward who was returning to action for the first time since suffering a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand Nov. 9. 

Hayward was part of the Celtics slaughter which featured himself along with the rest of the Boston starters each reaching double figures scoring. 

Jayson Tatum had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds while Kemba Walker led all scorers with 22 points followed by Jaylen Brown who had 20 points. 

GORDON HAYWARD

Returning to the floor for the first time since suffering a left hand injury on Nov. 9, Hayward didn’t show any significant signs of rust other than needing to be subbed out sooner than usual. 

He did essentially what he has done all season, and that’s take whatever the defense gives him as he finished with 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting to go with five rebounds and four assists. 

And that more than anything else, is what Monday’s game was about for Hayward and the Celtics. 

The Cavs are one of the worst teams in the NBA, so the idea of needing Hayward to log major minutes just didn’t seem like it would be in the cards tonight. 

Because with Indiana and Philadelphia coming up later this week and the status of Marcus Smart (eye infection) unclear, Hayward hitting the ground running was important not only in the win over Cleveland but the likelihood Boston will continue building off their recent success.

STAY HEALTHY

Besides winning, coming out of Monday’s game with no new injuries or ailments was important for the Celtics. They welcomed Hayward back to the mix, while being without Smart due to an eye infection.

Having healthy players not only bodes well for Boston’s depth, but it also enhances their chemistry which continues to be a work in progress that seems to be getting better as the season progresses. 

HOME SWEET HOME

With Monday’s win, Boston improved its home record to a flawless 10-0. The success they have enjoyed at the TD Garden should not be taken for granted, especially in a season in which there is such parity among the top-tier teams. 

Home court advantage may very well mean the difference between getting bounced in the first round or advancing all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

And while that may be a ways down the road, these are the games that serve as a foundation for that home court dominance the Celtics are eager to put to the test in the postseason which will be here before you know it. 

GRANT WILLIAMS

He only had three points but they were three points that were long, long, long OVERDUE. They came by way of Williams’ first career 3-pointer which came after having missed his previous 25 attempts. 

But there are two things you have to love about Grant Williams. 

Despite struggling, you never got the sense that he was pressing to make one or was down on himself about it. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for Williams to joke about being on the 3-point snide despite shooting better than 40 percent on 3’s during the preseason. 

You have to love the fact that he never let his inability to shoot 3’s impact his ability to help in other areas. He is an undersized forward who has been at times called to play center. And while he doesn’t score, good things tend to happen to Boston when he’s on the floor whether it’s with the second unit or when he gets time with the first group. 

He’s one of those guys that does a lot of good when he’s on the floor, regardless of whether he’s knocking down 3’s.

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Celtics guard Marcus Smart confirms he's cleared of coronavirus

Celtics guard Marcus Smart confirms he's cleared of coronavirus

The Boston Celtics faithful got some great news on Sunday night. Marcus Smart has officially been cleared of coronavirus as of Friday.

Smart took to Twitter on Sunday night to proclaim that he had been "corona free" for two days. Here's a look at his message to fans.

Smart also took some time to joke about how his immune system deserves an award for its performance against the virus.

That's excellent news that Smart is healthy. Brad Stevens had confirmed that Smart had been "feeling good" in a recent interview, and it appears that the scrappy guard is now out of the woods.

Smart had been asymptomatic at the time of his test. But he was tested out of an abundance of caution given that the Celtics had squared off against the Utah Jazz not long before Rudy Gobert tested positive for the disease.

After his diagnosis, Smart appeared on CNN to offer his perspective on the pandemic. He said that he was taking the quarantine "very, very seriously" even before his test had come back positive.

With Smart cleared, that means that all Celtics players and staffers that were tested have been cleared of COVID-19.

Tacko Fall discusses Africa-to-America basketball pipeline on 60 Minutes

Tacko Fall discusses Africa-to-America basketball pipeline on 60 Minutes

When Tacko Fall was 16, he left Senegal for the first time. The big man came to the United States on a special visa to attend high school and develop as a basketball player.

There was only one problem. Fall wasn't very familiar with the game of basketball. And as he described in an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Jon Wertheim, that was part of his tough adjustment to life in the USA.

"I was a big kid. I was huge. I was 7' 2". But I didn't know what I was doing on the basketball court. I had no idea," Fall said, as transcribed by CBS News' Keith Zubrow. "I didn't even know if I belonged in there. Some [of] it was a tough time getting adjusted to that. Just playing every day, working out, practicing, having the regimen. And it was also tough mentally, not having my mom, not having my family around."

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Though Fall had his share of issues at first, including moving to several different states before ultimately landing at Liberty Christian Prep, nearby Orlando, Fla., he ultimately figured everything out. He went to play for the UCF Golden Knights where he was one of their team's best players and the NCAA's best shot blockers. 

While Fall went undrafted after a four-year career at UCF, he caught on with the Boston Celtics during the Las Vegas Summer League. He became an instant fan-favorite and found a perfect role with the squad as a two-way player. And before the NBA shut down, he spent most of his time with the Maine Red Claws continuing to develop his game while averaging 12.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks and making better than 70 percent of his shots.

But Fall knows that there are some that aren't so lucky. And he's hoping that the NBA getting involved with the program will improve conditions for all involved.

"[There's] been many times where I feel like some people have been taken advantage of," Fall said. "They bring them here, then that's it. Then they're just left for their own. And if things don't work out, then they are pretty much screwed. It's getting better. I feel like now that they know what's going on, people are being more careful… especially now with the NBA being involved. And it's only gonna keep getting better."

Hopefully, it does continue to get better as Fall says. And maybe he can work with the NBA to help shape a program that helps all parties involved attain a desirable outcome.