If you had told the Boston Celtics that they would be holding the 2 seed with over 50 wins this season after losing Gordon Hayward on the first game of the season they may have had you checked for a concussion. The buzz around the the Celtics this off season once they landed Kyrie and Gordon would have had you thinking they changed their name to the “Hornets”.
I remember clearly on October 17 rushing through my work day so I could get home and prepare for the season opener. Not only was this the first time we as basketball fans would get to see Gordon Hayward reunited with his college coach Brad Stevens. We would also see Kyrie in Cleveland against the team he just abandoned. Whoever was in charge of making this season’s NBA schedule needed a huuuuge raise.
The beginning of this game felt like I was falling in love with the NBA all over again. The drama. The skill. Everything that makes the NBA great could be found in this game. With just under 8 minutes Jaylen Brown made his opening statement for why we need to pay close attention to how good he was going to be. All was right. My mouth was watering and it wasn’t because of the food I could smell my wife cooking. This season was going to be the best of my life.
And then.. with about 6 minutes and 52 seconds left in the first quarter. Kyrie had a beautiful lob set up for Hayward. This play was going to be a spark. It would ignite a bond and a union between 2 players that were destined to be perfect fits in a perfect system led by a perfect coach. This would be the play that brings everything together. Lebron’s reign in the east was being challenged. Or so we thought.
As Kyrie lobs a pass to the rim. Gordon makes a quick fake one way and heads to grab the ball just thrown in the air by Kyrie. If you watch the replay you can actually see Lebron prepared to disrupt this play before Kyrie has even geared up to make the pass. His instincts are remarkable. Unfortunately, in the process of breaking up this play Gordon comes down awkwardly on his foot.
As soon as Hayward came down the announcer knew what had happened. You could hear the shock in his voice as he claimed that “Hayward broke his leg”. Instead of this alley-oop being the play that claimed the throne, it was the one that potentially destroyed it. The game was so hyped and now it just felt as if no one wanted to even be there. The picture after the incident posted above captures well the mood for that evening.
Despite this tragic event the Celtics knew they still had 81 games left to play. It wouldn’t be easy. The next night was their home opener against Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo came to town and didn’t share many condolences. The Greek Freak posted 37 points and began his MVP campaign.
The season started much worse than they ever expected. The C’s have obviously come quite a ways since then. After starting 0-2 they went on a 16 game winning streak. Since then we have learned that Jayson Tatum definitely was Ainge’s top pick in this year’s draft and rightfully so. Jaylen Brown also had much more room to spread his wings.
Now, the Celtics are entering the first round not only without Hayward but also without Kyrie. Is it doom and gloom all over again? Should we really count this team out? It seems that they take punch after punch but somehow manage to put things together and pull out a W. If anyone knows how to win it’s the Boston Celtics.