New-Look Cavs Rally Past Celtics in Opener

Wrap-Up — Tuesday night’s contest was supposed to be a celebration of the new NBA season and the new-look Cavaliers’ home opener. And although the Wine & Gold held off Boston to notch their first win of the season, the night’s storyline was a somber one.

With 6:45 to play in the first quarter, Boston forward Gordon Hayward – in his first game as a Celtic – looped around the Cavs defense for a back-door alley-oop, but after getting tangled up mid-air Hayward came down awkwardly, fracturing his left ankle in one of the most gruesome NBA injuries in recent memory.

Both Celtics and Cavaliers players – along with everyone watching – sat in stunned silence as Hayward was placed on a stretcher and wheeled off the floor. Before he was wheeled off the floor, LeBron James offered as much encouragement and consolation as he could.

On the floor, James and Co. didn’t have their most efficient game – relinquishing an 18-point second half lead before rallying late to pull past Kyrie Irving and the Celtics, 102-99, on Tuesday night at The Q.

Beginning his 15th NBA season, LeBron led everyone with 29 points and 16 boards – going 12-of-19 from the floor, adding a team-high nine boards and a pair of blocked shots.

James led five players in double-figures, with Derrick Rose following up with 14 points in his Cavaliers’ debut, going 5-of-14 from the floor, including 1-of-3 from long-range. That one triple, which Rose splashed home at the third quarter buzzer, turned out to be a big one – giving Cleveland back the lead after Boston was in the process of closing the period on an 11-2 run.

The Cavaliers grabbed control of the game early in the second quarter – riding a double-digit lead into the third quarter. But behind Marcus Smart’s 12-point period, Boston chipped away at Cleveland’s lead.

Both squads went back and forth over the final 12 minutes, but after falling behind by four with 4:32 to play, the Wine & Gold had just a little more left in the tank and wrapped up the win in Kyrie Irving’s eagerly-anticipated return.

Irving, who was roundly booed during pregame introductions and every time he touched the ball, notched 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter – leading both teams with 10 assists. Sophomore Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points.

For the Cavaliers, Kevin Love – getting his first start at center – picked up where he left off last season, doubling up with 15 points and 11 boards. Jae Crowder pitched in with 11 points and five boards in his Cleveland debut.

J.R. Smith rounded out the Cavaliers in double-figures – netting 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well from the floor and were even worse from long-range – with the Cavs going 5-of-22 from beyond the arc; Boston, 8-for-32.

The Cavaliers bested Boston on the boards, 49-46, but dominated the Celts in second-chance points – outscoring them, 16-2.

Turning Point — There were several turning points in Tuesday’s contest, but the final twist is the only one that counts.

With Boston clinging to a three-point edge – 98-95 – with just over two minutes to play, the Cavaliers would proceed to close the contest on a 7-1 run, sparked by Kevin Love’s free throws with 1:43 to play and capped by his three-pointer that gave Cleveland a 102-98 edge with 46 seconds to play.

Kyrie split a pair of free throws and missed a pair of shots in the final 30 seconds and the Cavaliers took the first of three meetings between the East’s top two teams this season.

By the Numbers.824 … Cavaliers’ winning percentage (14-3) vs. the Celtics over their last 17 meetings, including the 2015 and 2017 Playoff matchups.

QuotableLeBron James, on squaring off against former teammate Kyrie Irving …

”Any time you win a championship with someone, you automatically think about the moments and the memories, especially with someone who was instrumental to what we were able to accomplish. But once the ball went up, it was kind of back to our regularly scheduled program.”

Up Next — With the home opener out of the way, the Wine & Gold hit the road for the first time this season, traveling to Milwaukee for a matchup with the Greek Freak and the Bucks on Friday night. The Cavs return home to complete their first back-to-back of the 2017-18 campaign, welcoming the Magic to town on Saturday night. After a couple days off, Cleveland gets back to work next week – taking on the Bulls at The Q next Tuesday before a two-game roadie that sends them to Brooklyn the following night and New Orleans on Saturday.

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