Celtics-Heat Instant Overreactions: Is Gordon Hayward back to All-Star form?

Celtics-Heat Instant Overreactions: Is Gordon Hayward back to All-Star form?

The Boston Celtics earned a hard-fought road win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 109-101.

The victory gives the Celtics a 2-0 advantage over the Heat in the season and makes them only a half-game behind Miami in the tightly-contested Eastern Conference standings.

Here are three instant overreactions from the C's win, which brings them to 31-15 on the season:

1. Gordon Hayward has returned to All-Star form.

Verdict: Slight overreaction

Hayward has now scored 20-plus points in three consecutive games for the first time in his Celtics career, leading all scorers in this game with 29. With the team continuing to deal with a myriad of injuries, Hayward has stepped up in a major way both offensively and defensively.

As for declaring him back to being the player who was voted into the All-Star Game in the 2016-17 season, that's a stretch.

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We need to see Hayward take the reins when the team is at full strength. The 29-year-old sometimes can be too passive when Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum all are on the court. While Hayward has proven valuable in those instances with his passing ability, we need to see him take over games more consistently before we say he's all the way back.

Considering how he's performed over the last week or so, there's no reason to believe he can't accomplish that.

2. Maybe the C's bench isn't so bad after all.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics' bench, once again, was abysmal Tuesday night... and then it turned itself around in the second half.

Brad Wanamaker drilled a couple of timely 3-pointers, rookie Grant Williams was a beast on the defensive end with seven rebounds, a steal, and a block, and Semi Ojeleye went 3-for-4 from the field for seven points.

Even so, bench production remains a real issue for the C's going forward. We've noted this on multiple occasions throughout the season, including after Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. They entered Tuesday's game 28th in the league in bench scoring.

In related news, rookie Romeo Langford didn't see the court despite being recalled from Maine earlier in the day. It'd be nice to see the No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft get more run.

3. Jaylen Brown deserves All-Star nod over Jayson Tatum.

Verdict: Slight overreaction

With Jayson Tatum out again due to a groin injury, Brown co-starred in the Celtics' win alongside Hayward with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting.

Brown has been great on both sides of the ball this season, but the slight edge probably still belongs to Tatum. Although Brown's defense has been underrated, Tatum has been the C's best defensive player all year. Offensively, it's pretty much been a wash.

Walker, Brown, and Tatum each are deserving of the honor, but it'll be tough in a loaded East. Celtics fans will hope to see all three in Chicago for the All-Star Game, especially since rookie Grant Williams promised to dye his hair pink if that happens.

Reserves will be announced Thursday. 

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Enes Kanter wants to finish season, thinks Celtics have a chance to win title

Enes Kanter wants to finish season, thinks Celtics have a chance to win title

It has now been 25 days since the Boston Celtics last played and 24 days since the NBA suspended its season over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. And right now, it's unclear when -- or if -- the season will resume.

And even if the games do return, there is going to be an adjustment period for players as they look to get back into game shape. In a Zoom conference on Friday, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter outlined why the league can't just jump right back into the playoffs without any sort of tune-up.

"I think we’ll need two to three weeks just to get back on the court because people are in their apartments and not moving at all," Kanter said, as transcribed by Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. "We have to make sure everyone is doing their stuff and in great shape, so they can go out and compete. If you jump straight to playoffs, playoffs are like a war, where you have to give it everything you have. Make sure everyone is 100 percent healthy, in game shape, and then we can compete."

This completely makes sense, as the last thing the league wants is to put the players in danger of suffering long-term injuries by bringing them back too quickly. Additionally, the league probably would also want their players in peak physical shape in order to avoid fielding a subpar product in the playoffs.

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Even with the uncertainty surrounding a potential NBA return, Kanter is holding out hope that the season will return. And he's pretty confident in the C's chances of going all the way if it does happen.

"We are competitors man, so we want to go out there and finish the season,'' he said. "Especially, like, it’s crazy β€” we actually have a really good chance to go out there and win a championship.''

Kanter has a point. The Celtics were the No. 3 seed in the East at the time of the league's suspension, but with time to get healthy, they may have a chance to have their full roster available, something they've rarely had this season. And their relative youth could allow them to get into shape quicker than some other more veteran-laden teams.

Still, until the league actually does return, it'll be more waiting and wondering what could've been for the Celtics had the season continued.

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Kevin Garnett's greatest impact? Elevating everything - and everyone - around him

Kevin Garnett's greatest impact? Elevating everything - and everyone - around him

When it comes to Kevin Garnett, statistically speaking, he’s one of the best of our generation and a no-brainer to go into the Naismith Hall of Fame on his first shot at basketball immortality.

But my fondest memories of him have little to do with the 2008 NBA title in Boston or the menacing scowl all opponents were greeted with every game, or even the intensity that he played with every second he was on the floor. 

When I think of Kevin Garnett, I think of how he elevated everything and everyone around him and cared for those around him more than he often let on. 

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Rookies soon found out the guy who was kicking their ass in practice and cussing them out when they didn’t listen is the same dude who would buy them suits at the start of the season because he wanted them to not only learn how to be pros but also look like it.

β€œHe did a lot of good things that people didn’t know,” former Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on more than one occasion. β€œWhen rookies came in, he would bring them up to my office. He’d sit them down, and then he would bring his tailor in and say, β€˜If you want to be a pro, you’ve got to dress like a pro.’ And he would buy each rookie two suits, and he did it every year. To me, that says a lot about Kevin Garnett as a teammate.” 

One of my first encounters with Kevin Garnett came in the early 2000s when he was in Minnesota and I was in Detroit covering the Detroit Pistons. 

Joe Smith, the former No. 1 overall pick and at that time one of KG’s best friends, was returning to Minnesota after a one-year stint in Detroit. So, naturally, the three of us reporters traveling with the team were waiting in the locker room to talk with Smith at the team’s morning shoot-around. 

Out of nowhere, KG came in, nodded to us before saying, β€œI’ll be with you guys in a minute.” And we were like, β€˜uh … OK.”

He must have spent 15 minutes talking to us about his relationship with Joe Smith, the importance of friendship and trust and family, respect for the game … it all made sense to me at that moment. If you are a competitor, there is no better teammate in the world than Kevin Garnett. 

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β€œHe’s the best, man,” Chauncey Billups, a former Celtic and Piston and β€” maybe most important β€” good friend of KG’s, told me back then. β€œHe’s a great player. Everybody knows that. But as a teammate? They don’t come any better than KG.”

Indeed, Garnett is passionate about everything it takes to play basketball at the highest level. I have always felt there’s a short list of elite players who fall under the category of five-tool talents who can score, rebound, defend, pass and make their teammates better β€” all at a high level. 

In all my years of covering sports, KG is the only player I have ever been around who had Hall of Fame-caliber skills in all five of those categories. 

And since he has retired, we have chatted a few times about his days in Boston and how he’s getting used to his new role on the other side of the camera. 

More smiles now, but the intensity to be his best? It’s still there and then some.

Now, he’s off to the Hall of Fame where he will finally be in the company of those whose passion for the game is close to his own, men and women who for years Garnett appreciated for the paths they blazed for him and so many others who have come and will continue to come after him.