BOSTON — Celtics forward Gordon Hayward suffered a strained neck running into a hard screen in the first quarter of the victory Saturday over the Atlanta Hawks and was sent home at halftime.
Hayward staggered backward after his head hit hard on the shoulder of Atlanta big man John Collins, who was setting a screen for teammate Trae Young. Hayward initially tried to stay on the court but coach Brad Stevens subbed him out with 3:50 to play in the frame.
Hayward was ruled out later in the first half and Stevens was uncertain about his status moving forward.
“Sent him home after halftime,” said Stevens. “I talked with him at halftime, obviously pretty woozy from that hit. So I don’t have any update on him. But you could see right away that it was quite a hit.”
The Celtics have Sunday off before hosting the Denver Nuggets on Monday night at TD Garden.
Hayward had been playing some of his most consistent basketball of the season lately, pairing with Jaylen Brown to give the Celtics’ second unit a much-needed jolt.
The Celtics’ reserves fumbled away a 25-point lead Saturday before the starters helped preserve a 129-120 victory over the Hawks.
It seems like each time Hayward has built some momentum lately, an injury has set him back a bit. He entered the All-Star break playing good basketball but twisted his ankle while working with teammate Semi Ojeleye before the team reconvened.
Some of the Celtics’ best basketball this season has coincided with Hayward’s best performances of the season, particularly against top competition. It has seemed as if his play could dictate just how successful this team will be when the postseason arrives.
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