Hayward suffers Gruesome injury as Cavaliers hold off Celtics in opener

Boston’s Gordon Hayward struck his left ankle just five minutes to the season, a grisly injury that overshadowed Kyrie Irving’s return to Cleveland and the Cavaliers’ 102-99 win over the shocked Celtics on Tuesday night.

LeBron James scored 29 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — in his most extensive action in 3 weeks due to a sprained left ankle. He also fed Kevin Love to get a important 3-pointer with 46.3 second left to put the Cavs up 102-98.

Irving, who requested to be traded this summer after six seasons in Cleveland, had an opportunity to tie it with a 3-pointer in the horn but missed. Irving subsequently shared a warm embrace with James, his teammate for three seasons.

Irving finished with 22 points for the Celtics, who conquered an 18-point shortage in the third and headed with 2:04 left. Boston’s protector was also called for a technical.

Hayward, who signed a four-year, $128 million free agent contract with the Celtics this summer, was hit by James while attempting to grab an alley-oop pass with 6:45 left in the first quarter. The forward’s leg got twisted beneath him as he came back to the ground and snapped his ankle grotesquely.

The 27-year-old sat up, looked at his foot and cried in terror while some players covered their mouths and others turned their heads.

Hayward’s magnificent injury changed the tenor of this highly anticipated season opener between two of the league’s best teams, and will probably change the direction of Boston’s season. Hayward will need surgery and require months to recuperate.

The Celtics were understandably shaken at halftime, and went into the locker room down 16.

However, they fought back and were top 98-97 when James, who played in 1 exhibition after spraining his ankle on Sept. 27, spun in the lane and made a layup to put Cleveland up by one. On Boston’s next possession, James cut Marcus Smart and deflected the ball off the guard’s leg and outside of bounds.

James then made a crosscourt pass into a wide-open Love, who emptied his 3 to provide the Cavs a four-point cushion.

Irving’s free throw made it 102-99, and the Celtics had two late chances but equally Jaylen Brown and Irving missed late 3s.

Enjoy had 15 and Derrick Rose 14 in his introduction for the Cavs, who are attempting to combine new faces and large egos quickly.

After the final horn, James and Irving, who spent part of this summer making subtle jabs at each other after the blockbuster trade, finished their signature handshake and the All-Star point guard greeted several former teammates.

He can still have a ways to go with Cleveland’s crowd, which booed him each time he touched the ball.

Irving discovered it from the minute he took the ground as Cleveland fans got their first opportunity to voice their displeasure toward him for demanding to be traded this summer despite three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals and one name.

However, Hayward’s injury took some of the sting from Cleveland’s audience, which gave the forwards a roaring ovation as he was taken off the ground on a stretcher.

When Hayward went down, Boston’s players huddled in prayer near their seat as a distressed James took a chair on the scorer’s table {}. The injury was a reminder that there are no givens and games, seasons and professions can change in a blink.

TIP-INS

Celtics: Coach Brad Stevens has been impressed with Irving’s basketball acumen and how quickly he’s picked up Boston’s system. “He’s spent plenty of time watching movie, a great deal of extra time talking about it. He’s great insights,” Stevens said. “Men like that can fit in anywhere. It is about how do most of us put together our strengths.” … Marcus Morris (sore right knee) participate in pregame drills but is out for a week or longer.

Cavaliers: James (28,816) passed numerous Hall of Famers while jumping to No. 7 on the career scoring record last season. He came in almost 1,500 points behind Dirk Nowitzki in No. 6. … Although it might take a while for the Cavs to find their on-court chemistry, trainer Tyronn Lue said that does not alter his early expectations. “We hope to win,” he said. “We hope to play hard and play the perfect way. It is going to be a process and we know that. Provided that we play the perfect way, we are focused on the right things, we’ll be OK.”

UP NEXT

Celtics: Host Milwaukee on Wednesday. Boston closed out 2016 regular season with home win over Bucks.

Cavaliers: At Milwaukee on Friday. Cleveland has won four straight over Giannis Anteokounmpo and Co..

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail