By: Kenny Doyle
There he was. Kyrie Irving guarded by LeBron James with seconds ticking away on the clock with a chance to show Cleveland what they were missing out on. A chance to drill a 3 right in LeBron's face and send the game to overtime...
and he airballed.
LeBron played great defense and it's far from a black mark on Kyrie's record that he couldn't hit the shot with the 6'8" James smothering him in the final seconds. If there's any blame to be passed out for the loss to Cleveland it should go to Brad Stevens and Jaylen Brown before Kyrie.
Although Jaylen played one of the best games of his career, he was 2-9 from 3 and missed a wide open shot from the corner with 1:31 left in the game that would have put the Celtics up 4 and comfortably in the drivers seat for the final minute. Instead LeBron came down, fooled Brown with an up and under move and the Cavaliers never looked back. Brown played an incredible game, but ultimately fell short of what was needed from him or a win.
Then Brad Stevens, who is often praised for being one of the best at after timeout plays in the NBA, had 2 chances to call a timeout to draw up a play for the Celtics to run. Once right after LeBron's missed 3 with 9 seconds left and after the offensive rebound off Jaylen Brown's miss. Instead Brad opted for the players to handle it themselves and the Celtics ultimately came up short.
Despite his up and down shooting from outside, the biggest star of the game was Jaylen Brown. With Gordon Hayward out indefinitely with his fractured ankle and tibia, Brown's ability to score will be a key to the Celtics ability to keep pace in the Eastern Conference going forward. Brown's offensive progression could ultimately define the Celtics season.
The lead story of the night is Gordon Hayward's gruesome injury. The timetable for a return will be set in the next couple of days, but the listed normal recovery time for a fractured tibia is 3-4 months. With the ligament damage that Hayward suffered, whether he can return to the court this season or not won't be something we'll have the answer to for months.
If Hayward is out, the Celtics look frighteningly like last year's team. An offense that will heavily rely on their superstar point guard for offense on a night to night basis with no one quite resembling a reliable second option. The Celtics season that started with such hope and excitement has been derailed and Hayward's recovery will likely define the next decade of Celtics basketball. Until we have the answers were looking for, it will be up to Irving, Horford, Brown, and Tatum to keep the team from falling off.
Photo: (USA Today)