Finally, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward play in the playoffs for the Celtics
Last year, the Celtics dashed to the cusp of the NBA Finals despite the absences of injured All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Both players made their long-awaited playoff debuts as Celtics on Sunday. Neither was spectacular in the 84-74 Game 1 win over the Pacers, but they did not really need to be.
Irving finished with 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting, along with 7 assists. Hayward had 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with 5 rebounds. Irving played 60 games during the regular season last year before being sidelined because of knee surgery, but Hayward’s season lasted just five minutes before he was felled by his gruesome ankle injury.
Hayward has said that he signed his four-year, $128 million contract because he wanted to be a part of atmospheres such as Sunday’s at TD Garden.
“Couldn’t have been happier to be out there on the court with my teammates, wearing the Celtics colors and playing in front of the fans,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Baynes shrugs off pain
The Celtics received a bit of a scare early in the fourth quarter when center Aron Baynes appeared to be injured when attempted to take a charge. He was in obvious pain and Al Horford immediately checked in for him.
But after staring at the floor for a few seconds and clenching his fists — and perhaps even screaming — Baynes said he was fine.
“I looked like I was in pain?” Baynes said after the game. “That’s all right. Looks can be deceiving. For sure, I must have been breathing harder than normal.”
Celtics legend Larry Bird, who now serves as an advisor for the Pacers, attended Sunday’s game. He received a standing ovation and stood and waved to the crowd when he was shown on the Garden’s video board during the second half.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft watched the game alongside Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, and also received a loud ovation when he appeared on the video board.
The opening day of the playoffs on Saturday was filled with upsets, with road teams winning three of the four games, including both Eastern Conference matchups, as the Nets beat the 76ers and the Magic toppled the Raptors.
“We all know that every team now is really good, really tough, really well-coached,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “You go down through the list, you don’t play well, you get beat, end of story. Doesn’t matter where it is. I don’t look at it as a reminder or anything else. You’d better play well at this stage.”
Missing the mark
The Pacers’ 74-point total was the lowest for a Celtics playoff opponent since the Magic scored 71 on May 22, 2010.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach