The Celtics surged to a 29-point lead and withstood a brief rally before grabbing a 110-88 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at TD Garden.
Kemba Walker led Boston with 22 points and 7 assists and Gordon Hayward added 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in his return after missing four weeks with a broken left hand.
The Celtics are 10-0 at home and have won seven of eight games overall.
Observations from the game:
■ It seemed as if the Celtics wanted to use this game for Hayward to get off any rust after sitting out for four weeks before the team played two considerably more challenging games this week against the Pacers (Wednesday) and 76ers (Thursday).
Hayward looked comfortable, and the benefits of being able to maintain his conditioning while he was out were obvious.
He made 7 of 10 shots, but one of his best plays of the first half actually came as he missed a layup. He showed good timing and athleticism to bounce back up and gather his own miss, leading to a new possession.
■ It’s tough to say how the return of Hayward affected the playing of the reserves, partly because Marcus Smart missed the game because of an eye infection, and partly because Boston’s lead was so large that everyone got a chance to play anyway.
■ Daniel Theis hit a first-quarter 3-pointer from the top of the key, and then added another in the third quarter, making him 3 of 4 over the last two games. He was 2 for 14 over the first 20 games, so this is obviously a small but positive development.
■ The Cavaliers’ defensive effort was noticeably bad for stretches of the first half. The Celtics generally got to the rim whenever they wanted. On one play, Jayson Tatum caught a pass on the left arc and Collin Sexton didn’t even bother putting up a hand until it was too late.
■ The first half was generally pretty blah on both sides, but the Celtics did craft a few plays at least worth putting onto highlight reels. Midway through the opening quarter, Theis swatted a Sexton attempt at the rim, Jaylen Brown led the ensuing break and fed Hayward for an acrobatic layup.
■ Semi Ojeleye continued to make the case for playing time by coming up with four first-half steals and also drilling a 3-pointer. There’s no question he has moved past Grant Williams in the pecking order.
■ The Celtics were a bit lackadaisical with their double-digit lead in the first half, and Cleveland actually could have clawed back into the game if it hadn’t gone 3 for 10 from the foul line, including a 1-for-6 effort from Tristan Thompson. (He missed his only free throw in the second half.)
■ Tatum’s post-up game is evolving. He tends to seek contact with a bit of a turnaround rip-through move, but that seems to take his focus away from making the actual shot. When the contact doesn’t come, it just ends up as a missed awkward shot.
■ Speaking of Tatum, it seems like he hesitates much less frequently on open 3-pointers when Boston is playing against bad teams. The coaches certainly want him to have the catch-and-shoot mentality regardless of opponent.
■ This seemed like the perfect game for Williams to snap his season-opening 0-for-25 3-point-shooting streak. He was at home, with a massive lead, against a team that was not all that willing to play defense. Sure enough, with 4:47 left, he stepped back from the left arc and calmly hit a set shot. Boston’s bench erupted like it was a game-winner.
■ It was mostly a feel-good night at that point, as the Celtics went deep into their bench and eventually stretched the lead to 83-54. Then Jordan Clarkson heated up and Cleveland rolled off an unlikely 17-1 run that changed the vibe in the building. The Cavaliers closed within 84-71 on a Clarkson 3, as the Celtics went more than six minutes without a made field goal.
■ Celtics starters combined to go 35 for 56 from the field. Not bad.
■ Hayward got a pretty loud welcome-back ovation when he was introduced in the starting lineup. It was just loud enough to say, “Hey, we’re glad you’re back.”
■ It wasn’t all fun for Williams. Late in the fourth quarter he was the victim of a violent poster dunk, courtesy of Cleveland rookie Kevin Porter Jr.