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CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Gordon Hayward understands the path injured Jusuf Nurkic must take

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic awaits a stretcher after suffering a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula Monday.Randy L. Rasmussen/Associated press

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CLEVELAND — Gordon Hayward understands he has become the reference and authority for ghastly on-court basketball injuries, so after the latest NBA player went down, Hayward offered support.

Portland center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula during the Trail Blazers’s double-overtime win Monday over the Brooklyn Nets. Nurkic had surgery Tuesday to repair his leg.

“I saw it [Tuesday] morning; I feel so bad for the guy,” Hayward said just about 90 feet from where he sustained his catastrophic injury in October 2017. “He was having a tremendous year. I feel bad for the Blazers, too. These things happen.

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“From what I saw, it looked kind of more like [Paul George’s broken leg] injury, a little less like mine. It will be a long road for him, but for sure he can work his way out of it.”

When Brooklyn’s Caris LeVert dislocated his right foot in mid-November, an injury that looked to be season-ending, Hayward sent out support through Instagram. He did the same with Nurkic and said he understands he’s going to continue to field questions when other NBA players sustain serious leg injuries. (LeVert returned to action in February.)

“Hopefully I can be some inspiration for some people that you can come back. It takes a lot of work, but it’s definitely possible,” said Hayward, who missed a full season with a dislocated left ankle and fractured tibia. “Blessed with modern technology and all they can do to help us get back.”

Speaking of injury, Hayward missed three games in NBA concussion protocol before returning to play nearly 34 minutes Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs. He scored 13 points with 10 rebounds and 3 assists.

“That’s the first concussion I think that I’ve had,” he said. “I’ve certainly been hit in the head before but that’s the first diagnosed concussion, so I really didn’t know what was going on with some of the recovery.”

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“A lot of it’s just rest, so there’s not much you can do. I felt good getting back out there. There was a lot of minutes for sitting out for three or four games, get my legs back under me a little bit I felt good.”

Hayward was initially listed with a strained neck, but said he was dazed after the collision with John Collins, so much so that he walked to the wrong side of the court for a possession.

Starting fresh

The Celtics were glad to bring back Jayson Tatum (21 points) and Al Horford (19 points), both of whom missed games with injury, in Tuesday night’s 116-106 victory.

They were joined in the starting lineup by Aron Baynes as Celtics coach Brad Stevens made a shakeup. It was the first time since Nov. 21 Baynes and Horford started together. Stevens said the starting lineup will now be a game-by-game decision.

Horford missed two games to rest his sore left knee that he banged during the March 16 win over the Hawks.

Tatum, who scored all 21 points in the first half Tuesday, was able to return after missing just one game.

Tatum banged his side defending a fast break in the waning minutes of Saturday’s collapse against the Hornets.

“They had the 2-on-1 [fast break] at the end of the game and I jumped and I landed on my hip and my back and it was pretty painful,” Tatum said.

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Tatum missed the Spurs game but that allowed him to watch the waning moments of the Duke-Central Florida second-round NCAA Tournament game. The Knights had a chance to knock off the No. 1 seed but Aubrey Dawkins’s putback rolled off the rim in the final seconds.

“We got real lucky,” Tatum, a Duke product. “But you need a little bit of luck to win a championship. They had me nervous for a little bit.”

Getting defensive

The Celtics walked into Quicken Loans Arena desperate for a win after losing their previous four games, taking a gut punch after losing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead against Charlotte and then getting blown out Sunday against the Spurs.

“First and foremost, we’ve got to be better defensively,” Hayward said. “We have to get back to playing the defense that we’re capable of playing, starting by getting back in transition, giving ourselves a chance to guard in the halfcourt. If we do that, whether or not we’re hitting shots, which we were not getting shots [Sunday] night, we’ll give ourselves a chance. We have to get back to that identity.”

Said Stevens: “You really have no choice but to stay in the moment and look forward. There’s no going back on some of those games that we felt like we would have a chance to win. There’s plenty of reasons why we lost.

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The Celtics’ 106 points allowed Tuesday were the fewest in 10 games.

Shrewsberry interest

Saint Joseph’s University, which let go longtime coach Phil Martelli last week, has shown interest in Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry, who interviewed for the UMass job last year. Shrewsberry is interested in being a college head coach and is highly regarded among those ranks . . . The Cavaliers were without sparkplug guard Matthew Dellavedova for the ninth straight game because of a concussion . . . As expected, Kyrie Irving did not make the trip but is expected to return for Friday’s showdown with the Pacers. Terry Rozier started in his place and had 11 points and 5 rebounds in 29 minutes. Irving has not played in Cleveland since the Oct. 17, 2017, season-opening game.