Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
Hayward dislocated his left ankle and fractured his left tibia in the first quarter when he was bumped in the air by James and Jae Crowder and fell with the leg pinned under him.
Hayward, 27, who signed a four-year, $128 million contract in the offseason with the Celtics, immediately called for help with the foot and ankle dangling in the wrong direction.
The Celtics huddled in prayer and Irving had to be consoled while medical personnel stabilized Hayward’s leg. He was carried off the court on a stretcher.
“You hurt for him,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s put in a lot of great work and I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well.
“Now, hopefully we get a full recovery and it’s a tough deal, but I guess that’s part of it, the risk of injury.”
Rookie Jayson Tatum added, “We prayed. We prayed for him, for his health, and we just told each other we have to keep pushing.”
The severity of the injury was reminiscent of the broken leg that Paul George suffered under the basket during a Team USA scrimmage in the summer of 2014. Irving and Derrick Rose were on the court for George’s injury, too.
“It’s not a great sight to see,” Irving said.
“It’s a weird feeling because you know something drastic just happened like that,” Rose added. “We still gotta go out there and play. I was playing in the same game with Paul George, and I made the mistake of looking at it while I was playing. It kind of messes you up a little bit.”
This was a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals from a year ago, but both teams were decidedly different than when they last met.
Irving and James led the Cavs to three straight Finals and it was Irving who nailed the winning 3-point shot in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
Irving asked to be traded from the Cavs in July, and on Aug. 22 he was shipped to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Crowder, Ante Zizic and two draft picks. The Celtics signed Hayward and traded Avery Bradley.
The Cavs added Rose and Wade. Kevin Love is starting at a new spot.
But they still have James, who was dominant with 29 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists after missing most of the preseason with a left ankle sprain.
Irving, finished with 22 points and 10 assists in his return to Cleveland. He was booed by his former home crowd throughout the game.
“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,” James said. “But once the ball went up, it was kind of back to our regularly scheduled program.”
Cleveland led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, but Boston rallied to take a four-point lead with a little over four minutes left. However, the Celtics scored just one point in the final two minutes.
Rose scored 14 points in his Cleveland debut and Wade added eight in his first game for the Cavs. Love finished with 15 points and 11 boards and made a 3-pointer on a pass from James with 46.3 seconds left that proved to be the difference.
“He was able to find not just me, but a lot of guys tonight,” Love said of James. “I was just happy I found myself in the right spot, they went to double him and I knocked it down.”
Second-year player Jaylen Brown paced the Celtics with 25 points.
NOTES: The Cavs canceled a planned video tribute honoring Celtics G Kyrie Irving, according to cleveland.com. … Irving said he wasn’t comparing Cleveland in a negative way to Boston when he said his new home was a “real, live sports city.” Irving said, “I was talking about driving into Boston. When I’m actually on the highway driving into Boston, the newness and the new environment of going into that city is something different for me.” He said, “My love will never change that I have for Cleveland.” … Cavs G Dwyane Wade said F LeBron James’ first game back in Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat “was a movie.” On Dec. 2, 2010, James returned to Quicken Loans Arena and dropped 38 points in three quarters on his former team. … James needs four more games to pass Zydrunas Ilgauskas (771 games) for the most in Cavs franchise history.