CLEVELAND -- Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.
Of all the juicy subplots for this hyped homecoming and a season opener between heated rivals, a serious injury to Hayward wasn't on the list.
Boston's season changed in a gruesome instant Tuesday night.
Hayward, one of the new Celtics, broke his left ankle just five minutes into his debut, and Boston was beaten 102-99 on Tuesday night by LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Hayward's horrific injury overshadowed Kyrie Irving's return to Cleveland and redirected Boston's immediate future and potential.
After the 27-year-old was wheeled from Quicken Loans Arena on a stretcher, offering a thumbs-up on his way to the ambulance, the Celtics rallied but came up short.
The outcome hardly mattered.
"You hurt for him," Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward, his former star at Butler. "It's a tough, tough deal, but I guess that's part of the risk of injury. I really feel for him."
James scored 29 points -- 13 in the fourth quarter -- in his most extensive action in three weeks because of a sprained left ankle. He also fed Kevin Love for a critical three-pointer with 46.3 seconds left to put the Cavs up 102-98.
Irving, who asked to be traded this summer after six seasons in Cleveland, had a chance to tie it with a three-pointer at the horn but his shot was short.
Jaylen Brown scored 25 and Irving had 22 and 10 assists for the Celtics, who overcame an 18-point deficit in the third and led with 2:04 left.
Hayward, who signed a four-year, $128 million free agent contract with the Celtics this summer, was bumped by James while trying to catch an alley-oop pass with 6:45 left in the first quarter. The forward's leg got twisted underneath him as he came back to the floor and snapped his ankle, his foot pointing awkwardly to one side.
The 27-year-old sat up, looked at his foot and yelled while some players covered their mouths and others turned their heads.
Stevens said Hayward will be taken directly to the hospital in Boston once the Celtics' plane lands, and he will require surgery and need months to recover.
The Celtics were shaken and went to the locker room down 16.
However, they battled back and were still leading 98-97 when James, who only played in one exhibition after spraining his ankle Sept. 27, spun in the lane and made a layup to put Cleveland up by one. On Boston's next possession, James cut off Marcus Smart and deflected the ball off the guard's leg and out of bounds.
James then made a cross-court pass to a wide-open Love, who drained his three-pointer to give the Cavs a four-point cushion.
"I just found a familiar face and Kevin was in the right place at the right time," James said.
Irving's free throw made it 102-99, and the Celtics had two late chances but both Brown and Irving missed late three-pointers.
Love had 15 and Derrick Rose 14 in his debut for the Cavs, who are trying to blend new faces and big egos quickly.
"We've got some things we need to figure out," James said. "It's a work in progress, for sure."
After the final horn, James and Irving, who spent part of the summer making subtle jabs at each other after the blockbuster trade, completed their signature handshake and the All-Star point guard greeted several former teammates.
He may still have a ways to go with Cleveland's crowd, which booed him every time he touched the ball.
At a glance
Cleveland 102, Boston 99 Houston at Golden State, (n)
TODAY’S GAMES All times Central
Brooklyn at Indiana, 6 p.m. Charlotte at Detroit, 6 p.m. Miami at Orlando, 6 p.m. Philadelphia at Washington, 6 p.m. Milwaukee at Boston, 6:30 p.m. New Orleans at Memphis, 7 p.m. Atlanta at Dallas, 7:30 p.m. Denver at Utah, 8 p.m. Minnesota at San Antonio, 8:30 p.m. Houston at Sacramento, 9 p.m. Portland at Phoenix, 9 p.m.
Sports on 10/18/2017
Print Headline: Hayward's ankle snaps; Cavs beat Celtics