Celtics

Kyrie Irving delivers game-winner, Celtics escape with win over Pacers

Kyrie Irving delivers game-winner, Celtics escape with win over Pacers

BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics moved one step closer towards securing home-court advantage at least through the first round of the playoffs as they squeaked out a 114-112 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Kyrie Irving’s driving lay-up with 0.5 seconds to play would prove to be the winning play.

And with the win, Boston (45-31) is now tied with the Pacers in the East.

But because Boston now has a 2-1 series lead, the Celtics have clinched the tiebreaker and the higher seed. . . for now.

And that higher seed, fourth overall, would give Boston home-court advantage if these two were to meet in the playoffs.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s win over Indiana.

STARS

Kyrie Irving: By no means was he flawless down the stretch, but Kyrie Irving managed to make just enough positive plays for the Celtics — including the biggest one of the game — before finishing with 30 points and five assists.

Bojan Bogdanovic:  He has been the Pacers’ best scorer since Victor Oladipo went down in January, and Friday night was no exception. He led the Pacers with 27 points.

STUDS

Aron Baynes: He scored the game’s first point of the night and continued to make his presence felt at both ends of the floor. Baynes finished with his first double-double of the season, totalling 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Thaddeus Young: One of the many Pacers who has stepped up in Oladipo’s absence, Thaddeus Young had a near double-double of 18 points and nine rebounds along with four assists.

Al Horford: It was yet another strong night for Horford, who tallied 19 points to go with seven rebounds and two assists.

T.J. Leaf: Of all the improbable contributors for the Pacers, T.J. Leaf had to be near the top of that list. He would finish with 12 points off the bench to go with four rebounds.

Jaylen Brown: This was another strong night for Jaylen Brown off the bench, finishing with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

DUDS

Terry Rozier: He was a non-factor most of the night, missing all three of his shot attempts while scoring just one point.

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WATCH: Ex-Celtic Isaiah Thomas gets warm welcome in Boston return

WATCH: Ex-Celtic Isaiah Thomas gets warm welcome in Boston return

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas was right.

The Washington Wizards guard said earlier in the week he expected to hear cheers from Celtics fans at TD Garden on Wednesday in his return to Boston.

Thomas heard those cheers and then some, receiving a strong ovation from the Boston crowd when he was introduced as Washington's starting point guard.

Thomas also caught up with old friend Marcus Smart and other Celtics teammates before the game.

The 30-year-old became a fan favorite in his two-plus seasons in Boston from 2015 to 2017, earning a place in Celtics lore with an incredible 2016-17 campaign capped by Boston's run to the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals.

Thomas has played in Boston once since leaving in the 2017 offseason but saw just seven minutes of action and didn't score in the Denver Nuggets' March 2018 game against the Celtics.

He's very much involved for the Wizards this season, though, averaging 13.2 points per game and starting in Washington's past three contests.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Gordon Hayward: 'Sucks watching' but hand injury is 'drop in the bucket'

Celtics' Gordon Hayward: 'Sucks watching' but hand injury is 'drop in the bucket'

BOSTON — Boston Celtics swingman Gordon Hayward admitted he’s frustrated to be out with an injury again but knows the fractured hand that will keep him out for the next six weeks is nothing compared to what he’s been through.

"It’s a drop in a bucket, for sure,” said Hayward, meeting with reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards. "Like I said, happy that it shouldn’t be that long. Obviously frustrated — it sucks watching and not being able to go out there and play, especially with the start that we’ve had. I think this time around, I’ll be able to run around, use my legs still, maintain my conditioning, which I’m very thrilled about and then be around the team, too. And kinda stay involved, which is good.”

Hayward said he’s not in a cast after surgery Monday to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his non-shooting hand but instead is wearing a splint that he can remove while doing exercises.

Hayward, playing like an All-Star at the start of the 2019-20 season, hesitated to put a firm timeline on when he hoped to be back. A six-week timeline has him back on the court right before Christmas.

“I think we’ll take it, as cliche as it sounds, we’ll take it day by day and week by week and it’s one of those things that, once the bone is healed, then it’s kind of how much can you tolerate and how well does my body handle with the swelling, kind of how well it takes ramping up activities and doing different basketball things,” said Hayward. "Honestly, looking at the plan that we set up today and just kind of attacking each day. Hopefully, I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”

Hayward said surgeons inserted both a pin and a plate at the fracture to both stabilize and expedite the recovery process. He will not travel at the start of Boston’s upcoming five-game trip out west and will have a follow-up with the hand surgeon in New York while waiting for clearance to travel.

Hayward appeared in good spirits despite the injury. His splint is already covered in drawings from his two oldest daughters, Charlotte and Bernadette. Despite his advice on color choices, he maintained a “Daddy’s Always Happy” face when detailing what his daughters sketched.

“Some of my favorite things: Puppies, unicorns, rainbows,” deadpanned Hayward. "I tried to get them to not use purple and go with some green but they were pretty adamant about the colors they picked. So I guess an artist is going to be an artist.”

Hayward did remain mystified just exactly how the injury occurred in the Celtics' victory in San Antonio on Saturday.

"I’ve watched the play and when you watch it in slow-motion it’s like, ‘What happened?’” said Hayward. "I don’t even think anything should have happened. Doesn’t look like it’s that bad at all.

"I think it must have been, initially, I think I must have hit [LaMarcus Aldridge with Hayward’s fingertips] or something and the force kinda just traveled through and then broke right in there. That’s my guess. I don’t know.”

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Warriors, which tips off Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.