Regardless of the outcome, the Boston Celtics’ season opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night was dampened by Gordon Hayward’s scary injury.
One bright spot for the Celtics in their 102-99 loss, however, was the play of swingman Jaylen Brown, who scored a career-high 25 points. Brown played with a lot of aggression on offense, attacking the basket and looking for his shot all over the floor.
The second-year forward led the C’s with 12 first-half points on 5-for-11 shooting. He connected on 11 of 23 shot attempts in the game, but struggled from beyond the arc (2-for-9).
It was a very encouraging performance from Brown. He was facing high expectations before Hayward’s injury, but the current situation likely will force Brown to play an even larger role in Boston’s offense.
Brown is a versatile player capable of slotting in at shooting guard, small forward or power forward. He led the C’s with 40 minutes played against the Cavs, and he might need to play that kind of role for the foreseeable future.
The Celtics will need Brown to be a reliable scorer in Hayward’s absence. Hayward averaged 21.3 points per game last season and would have given the C’s a dynamic scoring threat with his consistent outside shooting and ability to attack the basket. Brown has improved his 3-point range since his pro debut, but that shot remains a work in progress. Still, you could see his confidence taking the ball to the basket, even attacking LeBron James 1-on-1.
Brown is off to a tremendous start, and the Celtics need more of these performances to overcome Hayward’s injury and remain a top team in the Eastern Conference.
Here are few other notes from Boston’s season opener:
— Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game that Hayward has a dislocated ankle and a fractured tibia.
— Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum got his first career start in his NBA debut.
It didn’t go particularly well early on for the 2017 No. 3 overall draft pick. In addition to having his first career shot attempt blocked by James, Tatum also was whistled for a defensive three seconds violation in the first quarter and shot 0-for-5 in the first half. His first basket came on an alley-oop less than a minute into the third quarter.
Tatum was much better in the third quarter, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the frame. He also notched a double-double with 10 rebounds, putting him in some impressive company in Celtics history.
— Marcus Smart started 0-for-7 from the field but hit five of his next nine shots to lead the Boston bench with 12 points. His defense, as usual, was phenomenal, and the C’s really fed off his energy in the third quarter. Smart also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out three assists in 35 minutes.
— The Celtics attempted the third-most 3-point shots per game last season, and they hoisted 32 against the Cavs. Boston was 2-for-16 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished 8-for-32 (25 percent) from distance.
— James, as often is the case, was tough to stop late in the game, and he finished with 29 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists.
— Cameras caught a (brief) show of respect between former teammates before tip-off.
Kyrie Irving and James also shared a moment after Irving’s 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images
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