The Boston Celtics kept their winning streak alive by coming out of Cleveland victorious.
The 4-1 Boston Celtics faced off against the 2-4 Cleveland Cavaliers just a little thin. Enes Kanter continues to be sidelined with a knee contusion. Forward Jaylen Brown did not travel with his team to Cleveland, due to an undisclosed infection.
The Boston Celtics lacked the bodies to bang against Cleveland’s bigs Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Brad Stevens was forced to go against the grain and also ride his starting five heavily. One of these unorthodox adjustments was placing the 6’4” Marcus Smart on the 6’10” Love; and it worked! Love scored just 17 points; the Celtics eked out the win, 119-113.
If any fan had doubts if Gordon Hayward was indeed back to full strength, hopefully this game assuaged those fears. Hayward dominated with 39 points on just twenty field goal attempts, converting on 17 of them. Hayward also added eight assists and seven rebounds to his sheet.
Stevens rode Hayward to the point his hands were on his hips early in the third quarter, in desperate need of a brief respite. Stevens hoped by extending Hayward’s minutes the Celtics would pull away early.
Instead, Cleveland held on and wouldn’t go away. Young guard Collin Sexton gave Kemba Walker his best; notching in 21 points. The usually erratic, speedy guard managed to turn the ball over just once in his 35 minutes.
Cleveland played possibly their best game of the season. The Cavs forced 14 turnovers, while committing 6 themselves. Despite shooting 41 percent, to the Boston Celtics 56, the Cavaliers bested Boston on the offensive boards, 12-4. The Boston Celtics were very small and Daniel Theis finished with nine of those boards.
Jayson Tatum scored 18 points, but didn’t make a single three-pointer despite shooting 5 attempts. This night belonged to Hayward. The Boston Celtics needed him to step up and he certainly did.
Late in the 4th, under a minute remaining, the Celtics lead 116-113, Walker missed a 3-point shot and Hayward rushed for the rebound in front of Thompson, and was successful on the put-back for the game sealing bucket.
The Boston Celtics are 5-1 and head to Charlotte to face the Hornets, and former teammate Terry Rozier on Thursday, scheduled for prime time on TNT. Cleveland will get an extra day off. Now 2-5, they will head to Washington to face the Wizards on ESPN.