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.
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.
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.
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.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Pacers, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.