Celtics

Hayward delivers strong performance in first game in Cleveland since '17 injury

Hayward delivers strong performance in first game in Cleveland since '17 injury

Upon his arrival in Cleveland, Gordon Hayward acknowledged he was a little more anxious than usual for tonight’s game. 

And during the Boston Celtics’ morning shoot-around, those nerves were still a bit unsettled. 

Considering all that he has been through over the past 12 months - and where he was at tonight - it made sense. 

Tuesday was Hayward’s first game back at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, the same court that a little more than a year ago dramatically changed his life after he suffered a gruesome, season-ending left ankle/leg injury. 

So for Hayward, Tuesday night’s 103-96 win over Cleveland was indeed a mile-marker of sorts as he continues down the path of recovery. 

“I was a little anxious about it for sure, sitting in my hotel room last night, just thinking about how everything changed,” Hayward told reporters following Tuesday’s win. “Where I was sitting a year ago, from now. I’m just happy I was out there.”

But Hayward was more than just another warm body on the floor for the Celtics on Tuesday.

☘️CELTICS 103, CAVALIERS 96

With Kyrie Irving (hip) and Marcus Morris (knee) both out, Boston needed a lift from its second unit. 

And to Hayward's credit, he was up for the challenge. 

The 6-foot-8 Hayward tallied 18 points off the Celtics bench, in addition to grabbing six rebounds while dishing out five assists. 

 “Beautiful. He’s been struggling a lot,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told reporters in describing Hayward's game against the Cavs. “To come back to the place where it all started, to have a great game is something that sits in the back of your mind. We’re happy for him; we’re proud of him.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he had not given Hayward’s previous visit to Cleveland any thought until this morning. 

“I just think he’s played enough now, he’s past that initial hurdle, right?” Stevens said. “It’s probably not fun to walk out on the court the first time and shoot-around and those type of things. But ultimately, he probably moved past that pretty quickly."

Stevens added, “He was great tonight, both ends of the court. I thought his offensive play-making, passing the ball, was as good as his scoring.”

Even after he entered the game in the first quarter on Tuesday, Hayward’s anxiousness had not gone away.

But those emotions didn’t stick around for long.  

“After I got up and down and I was running around for a little bit, they were gone. But definitely, warming up … even at shoot-around I was little anxious about it.”

None of that matters now. 

Hayward had a strong game, the Celtics (35-19) got the win, and Hayward crosses yet another mile-marker in his road to recovery. 

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Celtics' Saturday woes continue with latest weekend loss to bad team

Celtics' Saturday woes continue with latest weekend loss to bad team

Forget losing out on home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Boston Celtics' biggest concern should be avoiding having to play on Saturdays.

The Celtics suffered a baffling loss to a mediocre team Saturday night, allowing the 10th-seed Charlotte Hornets to reel off a 30-5 run en route to a 124-117 loss.

If you're feeling a little déjà vu, you're onto something. That ugly 86-point effort at home against the Utah Jazz in November? It came on a Saturday night. A perplexing 10-point road loss to the tanking Chicago Bulls in late February? Also a Saturday night.

And that fateful defeat at the hands of the Orlando Magic that prompted Kyrie Irving to question the Celtics' lack of experience? You guessed it: Saturday night.

The Celtics have played an unusually high number of Saturday games this season -- 17, their most since the 1955-56 season -- and have fared quite poorly. They're now 8-9 in Saturday games, with seven of those eight wins coming against teams currently out of the playoff picture.

Here's a look:

Wins: at NYK, at DET, at MIN, at CHI, at MEM, at ATL, at LAL, vs. ATL
Losses: at IND, vs. UTA, at DAL, at DET, at ORL, vs. GST, vs. LAC, at CHI, at CHA

In Boston's defense, it's a pretty brutal schedule to navigate: 13 of those 17 games have been on the road (it will be 14 of 18 when the C's visit Brooklyn next Saturday), and five were on the second night of a back-to-back.

But here's what makes this trend so baffling: The Celtics thrived in these situations in recent seasons.

In fact, the C's entered the 2018-19 campaign with wins in 17 of their last 20 Saturday regular-season games. They won 9 of 11 Saturday contests in 2017-18 and dropped just one Saturday game in nine tries in 2016-17.

This season has been a completely different story for the enigmatic Celtics, whose lowest winning percentage is in Monday games (5-7) but who shoot worse from the floor (40.6 percent) and have more losses on Saturday than any other day of the week.

Of course, this could all be a coincidence. Boston easily could "flip the switch" and throw its Saturday struggles out the window come playoff time.

But like many of us, it appears the 2018-19 Celtics don't enjoy working on Saturday night.

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Brad Stevens blames himself for Terry Rozier's errant 3-pointer vs. Hornets

Brad Stevens blames himself for Terry Rozier's errant 3-pointer vs. Hornets

Terry Rozier made a pretty questionable decision late in the Boston Celtics' loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

With under 20 seconds remaining and the Celtics trailing by three, Rozier drove the lane on a semi-fast break with only Hornets guard Devonte Graham between him and the hoop. But rather than pass or attempt a shot in the paint, Rozier dribbled out to the perimeter to take (and miss) a contested 3-pointer. Charlotte grabbed the rebound to seal Boston's fate: a 124-117 loss in a game the C's led by 18 points.

But rather than admit Rozier made a bone-headed play, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens insisted he deserved blame for failing to call a timeout as the play broke down.

"They're face-guarding Kyrie (Irving) at half-court," Stevens said in his postgame interview, as aired on NBC Sports Boston. "At the end of the day, that should not be on Terry. If anything, that should be on me. So, I don't blame him for that. 

"He attacked. The clock was running down, we're down three. We've seen him hit shots like that. But at the same time, if there's a finger to point to, it would be at me because we had a timeout left."

While he let Rozier off the hook for that play, Stevens still was critical of his team's shot selection during a massive 30-5 Hornets run in the fourth quarter.

"We had an 18-point lead ... and then we just started shooting shots we weren't shooting prior to, and our defense got a little more attackable," Stevens said. " ... Whenever that happens, I think you can look at it and say, 'We all could have done better.' "

It was a diplomatic answer from Stevens, who has had plenty to gripe about over a six-game stretch in which Boston has allowed 114 points or more in every contest.

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