October 17, 2017, 11:27 pm
You and I shared a very similar feeling on Tuesday. In the afternoon, we could hardly contain ourselves that the NBA season was hours from tip-off. The Cavs-Celtics would be a reunion only the movies could write up. The boos came for Kyrie Irving. Hugs and fist bumps followed. That warm feeling akin to Christmas morning was in the air. Tip-off came and the season was back, baby.
Then it happened.
Irving, in Celtics green, lobbed up an alley-oop near the rim for his brand new teammate, Gordon Hayward. LeBron James came over to help and made a play on the ball. Hayward went down and at 6:45 remaining in the first quarter in the opening game, the warm feeling was gone. In a video that is not for the faint of heart, Hayward clutched his left leg in pain and the air was sucked out of the basketball world. Hayward fractured his ankle.
Quicken Loans Arena became a somber scene right away. Players on both teams displayed emotions that brought about a very real touch to a game that we all love. The Celtics huddled up, some in tears, praying for their fallen teammate. Dwyane Wade knelt down in deep thought. LeBron stayed close to Hayward. He was carried off on a stretcher.
Isaiah Thomas, who helped recruit Hayward to the Celtics over the Summer, accompanied by LeBron, visited Hayward in the locker room. The Celtics diagnosed Hayward quickly with a fractured ankle.
Nobody wants to see a player with such great character and heart go down like Gordon Hayward. Our prayers are out to him and we wish him a full recovery.
When asked how the Celtics will move on from this at halftime, coach Brad Stevens replied “We have to.” As somber as these situations can be, the show must go on.
Marcus Smart started the second half for Hayward and should see over 30 minutes per game moving forward. His efficiency could be better, but the opportunity is there. If Haywards injury is season ending, Smart should flirt with top-100 value.
ROCKETS SHOCK WARRIORS ON OPENING NIGHT
Since the start of last season, the Warriors have lost only six times at Oracle Arena, including the playoffs. The Rockets own two of those losses. Kevin Durant nailed a buzzer beater for the win but the replay showed his fingers were still on the ball when the clock hit zero. After all of the talk about how unbeatable the Golden State Warriors will remain in 2017-18, they will start out the season 0-1.
James Harden shot 10-for-23 from the field for 27 points, six boards, 10 assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes. If there was any doubt that his production would decline sharing with Chris Paul, rest easy. Harden hasn’t skipped a beat.
Speaking of CP3, he couldn’t get in to a groove offensively. Paul finished with just four points on 2-for-9 shooting, eight boards, 11 assists, two steals and one block. After the game, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said that Paul was “playing on one leg.” This is news to us. There was no mention of this injury in preseason. Monitor Paul’s status closely in the coming weeks.
The Rockets stuck to an eight man rotation, so the bench was very productive. Eric Gordon got hot, shooting 9-for-16 from the field for 24 points with one board, one assist, one steal and two blocks in 29 minutes. He will have a lot of ups and downs all season.
P.J. Tucker is worth a speculative add after a nice line on Tuesday. Tucker shot 6-for-9 from the field for 20 points with six boards, one steal and four 3-pointers. If Tucker keeps his minutes about 25 per game, he could carve out solid late-round value in standard leagues.
If I told you the Warriors were at home with a 13-point lead to start the fourth quarter and Swaggy P would hit six threes, you would think the Warriors won the game. Nick Young shot 8-for-9 from the field for 23 points with two boards. Ignore him unless you are in a deep league. He is nothing more than a 3-point specialist streamer.
Kevin Durant shot 7-for-15 from the field for 20 points, five boards, seven assists, four blocks and two 3-pointers in 37 minutes. Even though the stats might not show it, he was everywhere tonight. He will remain a top-five fantasy stud all season.
Draymond Green was one-point shy of a triple-double, scoring nine points with 11 boards, 13 assists, one block and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. He came up lame chasing a loose ball at the end of the third quarter and had a noticeable limp. He left before the fourth quarter and did not return. After the game, Kerr called Dray’s injury a tweak of the knee. There is no word yet on the severity of the injury. It didn’t look too bad, so we don’t expect him to be out for long, if at all. Green is a safe second round talent.
KD’s running-mate Steph Curry put up a 22-5-4-1 line with three 3-pointers in 29 minutes. He picked up some foul trouble early in the game, which is why he didn’t reach 30 minutes. He will hold top-five value all season.
Klay Thompson nailed four three’s for a 16-6-3-2-2 line. He is safely at third round value this season.
CAVS HOLD OFF CELTICS IN FINAL MINUTE
The Cavs looked dominant in the first half after a deflated Celtics team struggled to recover after Hayward’s injury. They pulled off a monster comeback to take a four-point lead in the fourth, but LeBron and co. proved too strong to claim a 102-99 victory.
LeBron James was in MVP form, shooting 12-for-19 from the field for 29 points with 16 boards, nine dimes, two blocks and one 3-pointer in 41 minutes. Best of all, LeBron came off of a doomed double-team to find Kevin Love open in the corner for the dagger to take a 102-98 lead with 46 seconds remaining. LeBron looks to be far past any sort of ankle injury.
Kevin Love double-doubled with 15 points and 11 boards. Better nights are ahead.
It was interesting to see Derrick Rose perform at another gear for the Cavs. The former MVP put up respectable numbers (14-4-2-1) and should be owned in standard leagues.
It’s back to the drawing board for the Celtics, who recruited Hayward and now possibly lost him for the season. There is no clear “handcuff” who will step in and eat up all the minutes. The real answer is everyone.
Kyrie Irving will be expected to step up the scoring and take more shots. Irving shot 8-for-17 for 22 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, three steals and four 3-pointers in 39 minutes. He will provide late-first to mid-secound round value the rest of the way.
Marcus Smart started the second half and should get a bulk of the minutes moving forward. Smart scored 12 points (5-for-16 FGs) with nine boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks.
Jaylen Brown shot 11-for-23 from the field for 25 points, six boards, two steals and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes. While he is also a high benefactor of the injury, there is a possible sell-high moment here. If you have him, field some offers.
SUSPEND BOBBY PORTIS? MIROTIC OUT INDEFINITELY AFTER ALTERCATION
Hayward wasn’t the only injury on a wild opening night. Nikola Mirotic suffered two maxillary fractures on his face after getting into an altercation with Bobby Portis during the Bulls’ practice on Tuesday. After an exchange of words and some shoving, Portis punched Mirotic square in the face and Mirotic was down for several minutes. He was taken to the hospital and may require surgery. His timetable is unknown at this point, but team doctors initially said he will be out “a few weeks, at least.”
It was said that the two have been chippy for three years in the making. When it was announced that Mirotic won the starting forward spot, added tension arised. In a statement, the Bulls said they are seeking “disciplinary action” for Portis. He could be facing a significant team suspension and possibly further action, including release.
The banged up Bulls are in disarray and are in dire need of playmakers. Justin Holiday and Lauri Markkanen shined in preseason and should attempt to pick up the slack. Robin Lopez is the only constant in the lineup and will clearly lead the bigs in minutes. It’s a messy situation in Chicago.