Celtics

Gordon Hayward plays big minutes, big role in Celtics overtime win

Gordon Hayward plays big minutes, big role in Celtics overtime win

BOSTON – Gordon Hayward sat in front of his locker stall, both feet shin-deep in icy water with both knees receiving post-game treatments that involved them being heavily wrapped. 

Kyrie Irving had delivered a super-sized double-double of 43 points and 11 assists which naturally, drew a lot of attention. 

But the man getting dapped up by one teammate after another following the win was Hayward who delivered what was arguably his most complete game of the season in Boston's 123-116 overtime win against Toronto. 

“It’s great to be able to see he’s getting comfortable,” Aron Baynes told NBC Sports Boston. “You can see it by the end of the game."

When Hayward plays like he did on Friday, it "takes some pressure off of Kyrie (Irving) as well, JT (Jayson Tatum), everyone, one through 15," Baynes said. "That’s what makes it fun with this team.”

And Hayward’s performance came against a Toronto (12-4) team that has been atop the Eastern Conference standings for most of this season, further validating this as a quality performance against a high-quality opponent. 

Indeed, Hayward delivered a strong across-the-board performance for Boston (9-6), tallying 15 points on 4-for-8 shooting to go with five rebounds, five assists and four steals while logging a season-high 39 minutes.

We have seen Hayward put up similar numbers in terms of points, rebounds, assists and steals this season.

But the 39 minutes played?

This came as a surprise to many, with no one more shocked than Hayward.

The 39 minutes played included him on the floor for the entire five minute overtime session.

 “I was wondering if they were going to take me out of the game at some point in (overtime),” Hayward said. “Happy that he left me in. It felt good to play that many minutes; it’s been a long time since I’ve done that so it’s a good confidence builder.”

You have to go back to March 31, 2017 for the last time Hayward, then with the Utah Jazz, played as many minutes as he did on Friday night.

That game was against Washington and similar to Friday’s outcome against Toronto, that was also a seven-point win for Hayward’s team.

One of the challenges for Hayward and the Celtics as a team in general, is figuring out the best way that all this talent can gel together and contribute in as positive a way as possible, to winning.

While Hayward is very much a work in progress, it’s clear that his greatest benefit to this team right now when it comes to winning, is being a playmaker who gets others involved while recognizing opportunities and taking advantage of those opportunities to get his own shots off and make plays for himself.

“He’s a good player,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who also coached Hayward in college at Butler. “And there’s going to be a curve. I think that 15 (points) on eight shots is pretty good when you consider how much we’re asking him to handle the ball and make plays for others. But you know, I think he’s … I think he’s done a lot of things in the last couple of weeks where you can see those, those steps are being made.”

While Hayward’s return to his pre-injury form isn’t quite there yet, he's clearly trending in the right direction.

“He’s going to come around,” said Boston’s Marcus Morris. “It’s a long season. I was happy to see him getting it going a bit.”

And while his play in overtime was among the keys to Boston getting the win, Hayward came through in the closing seconds of regulation with a pair of free throws that tied the game up and would serve as the final points scored in regulation.

Being on the floor when the game was on the line, it's something Hayward hasn't done much of as a Celtic. 

“It’s been a long time since I was in a situation like this,” Hayward acknowledged after the game. “Playing at the end of the game, with the crowd and the atmosphere and everything like that was amazing! That was a lot of fun. I’m glad that we came out on top.”

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Al Horford, Celtics due for big game after long layoff

Al Horford, Celtics due for big game after long layoff

BOSTON --  The return of Al Horford to the Boston Celtics lineup will be soon, possibly as early as Wednesday’s game against Phoenix.

And Horford, who has missed the last five games with patellofemoral pain syndrome, will be looking for a solid return - a trend among his fellow Celtics who have returned to action after missing multiple games this season.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has indicated that Horford’s issue was not one that will keep him out for a significant amount of time.

“Just to strengthen him and get him feeling a lot better,” Stevens told reporters, reminding them that Horford being shelved for a few games is similar to what the Celtics did with Marcus Morris at the start of last season.

“And make sure that he (Horford) feels great instead of going in and out like this,” Stevens said.

Horford told reporters the injury just wasn’t getting any better with while he continued playing.

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So the suggestion that he miss games, while not the news Horford wanted to hear, was eventually accepted as the best course of action right now.

“I just have to listen to the training staff and what the doctors are telling me,” Horford told reporters. “I’ve got to buy into that.”

Horford has missed the last five games, and seven of the last 11. 

Fortunately for Horford, the Celtics have managed to find success in his absence with wins in four of the last five games played without him.

But the real benefit upon Horford’s return will likely be found in both his play and that of the team.

Boston returns to the floor on Wednesday after having not played since a loss at Detroit on Saturday, a solid three days in between.

This season, the Celtics are 6-1 in games in which they have at least two days in between games, with the lone loss being an early season road loss at conference-leading Toronto.

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Jaylen Brown, who missed three games with a lower back bruise, returned to the floor and scored 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting to go with three rebounds and two assists.

Gordon Hayward (illness) missed a couple games and returned to the lineup and scored 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, which included him making all three of his 3-pointers to go with three rebounds and five assists.

The return after missing a few games was also a solid one for Aron Baynes.

After missing three games with a right hamstring injury, Baynes had nine points on 3-for-5 shooting and five rebounds in Boston’s 108-105 win over Detroit on October 30.

Baynes would later miss two games because of a sprained ankle. In his return he had just three points with five rebounds and two assists in Boston’s 130-125 overtime win.

The only other Celtics player to have missed at least two consecutive games because of an injury or illness is Daniel Theis, who was out six games with a right plantar fascia tear. He played just five minutes and was scoreless in Boston’s six-point loss at Portland on Nov. 11.

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NBA rumors: Celtics have been hawking Anthony Davis for years

NBA rumors: Celtics have been hawking Anthony Davis for years

The clock is ticking until next summer when the New Orleans Pelicans can offer superstar center Anthony Davis a super-max contract extension -- in the likely event he makes an All-NBA team for the 2018-19 season and is eligible for such a deal.

That contract would be worth $235 million over five years, so Davis would be giving up a lot of money by turning it down. But if he accepts, he'd have to prolong his career in New Orleans, where he's unlikely to ever make a deep playoff run.

Davis declining that extension would pretty much force the Pelicans to trade him, and ESPN's Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski recently talked about that scenario in a recent video segment. 

"If he says no to that, the entire league is now in disarray because anyone with trade assets, including LeBron's team, including a very good Boston team, will be doing everything it can to get Anthony Davis," Lowe said. "It's the biggest story in the league. The entire landscape could change based on what he does."

The Boston Celtics have been linked to Davis in trade rumors for a while, and Wojnarowski shed some light on that during this segment.

"Boston has been hawking Anthony Davis for years," Wojnarowski said. "They always hoped that it would be, whether it's the end of this season or the beginning of next before the trade deadline, that they would gather up all those assets, all those picks Danny Ainge has and young players, and they'd be the team to be able to get Anthony Davis. But now you have L.A. and if they get shut out in free agency, they're going to have to take all their young players to try to use them to get Anthony Davis."

You can watch the entire exchange between Wojnarowski and Lowe in the video below.

Few players have the ability to change the balance of power in the NBA with their free-agent decision, but Davis certainly fits in that group. Davis is averaging 28 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game while shooting 50.3 percent from the field this season. The 25-year-old center is a generational talent. 

The competition for him, if he ever becomes available for trade, will be fierce. The Celtics likely have the most to offer, and it's up to president of basketball operatons Danny Ainge to find the right price without completely gutting the enormous depth he's built for Boston's current roster.

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