Gordon Hayward has had better games than what we saw on Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
But few compare to how clutch he was in Boston’s 141-133 double overtime win over the Clippers.
Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker were huge most of the game for the Celtics, but it was all Hayward in the decisive second overtime period.
Hayward made a 3-pointer in the second overtime period that put Boston ahead 137-132.
He would finish the game with 21 points, seven of which came in the second overtime period.
To put that in perspective, Hayward's seven points scored in the second overtime was more than the entire Clippers team (6 points) scored in that session, and equalled the point total of the rest of the Celtics in the second OT.
Moments after his 3-pointer that put Boston ahead by five points, Hayward blocked a driving lay-up attempt by Lou Williams that went out of bounds and went off of Williams.
Hayward, who also had 13 points, four assists and a blocked shot, would later take a 3-pointer, miss it, and wound up with the loose ball as part of his team-high 13 rebound total.
He wasn’t done.
With the Clippers’ chances at a comeback win dwindling, Hayward was able to put the game away by stealing an in-bounds pass to Williams and was soon back at the free throw line after being fouled.
Hayward's play was a reminder of how this Celtics team has navigated successful play most of this season.
While there were others who put up better numbers than Hayward, his play down the stretch when the game was on the line was indeed one of the keys to the Celtics (38-16) going into the All-Star break with wins in eight of their last nine games, and 11 of 13.
The first-time All-Star dazzled the TD Garden crowd with one of his best performances of the season. It’s easy to lock in on Tatum scoring a game-high 39 points on 14-for-23 shooting along with his nine rebounds.
But just as impressive was his defense as part of the multi-player attack when it comes to guarding Kawhi Leonard who had 28 points but did so on 10-for-27 shooting.
The confidence that he's playing with is on a level that's only going to continue leveling up with time. And experiences like what we saw on Thursday when for long stretches, Tatum outplayed the reigning NBA Finals MVP and anyone else who set foot on the TD Garden floor, will become more common.
One of the best professional scorers in the NBA, the Celtics had trouble keeping up with Williams all game.
As prolific as Jayson Tatum was scoring the ball, Williams held his own scoring most of the game as well.
He would lead the Clippers with 35 points off the bench - more points than the entire Celtics’ second unit scored (19).
With Jaylen Brown (left calf contusion) out, Boston once again found itself in search of someone needing to step up and fill a void. Smart was that guy, finishing with a career-high 31 points which included making five 3-pointers.
We talk a lot about what Smart does defensively, and for good reason: he’s a hell of a defender.
But Smart is steadily trending towards being a solid two-way player who is showing the ability to significantly impact the game both with his shot and as we’ve seen for years, his defense.
Kawhi Leonard had 28 points on 10-for-27 shooting, to go with nine rebounds. Good numbers for any player.
But here’s the thing.
Kawhi Leonard, on this night, wasn’t the best player on the floor.
That was Jayson Tatum.
Come to think of it, he wasn’t the second- best player, either.
That was Lou Williams.
And a strong case could be made that in addition to those two, Marcus Smart was just as good - or better - than Leonard.
Maybe his mind was already on the All-Star break, because the usually dominant player that we usually see on both ends of the floor, wasn’t quite himself.