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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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Karl-Anthony Towns dealing with wrist injury, will miss game vs. Celtics

Karl-Anthony Towns dealing with wrist injury, will miss game vs. Celtics

It doesn't look like the Boston Celtics will have to face Karl-Anthony Towns coming out of the All-Star break.

The Celtics are taking on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Friday night, their first night back after eight days off. The Timberwolves will be without Towns for that contest as he deals with a left wrist injury.

Towns didn't practice on Wednesday as a result of the injury. And per The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said Towns would miss games with the injury.

While the team hasn't officially confirmed that he's out, Friday's game is the Wolves' first back from the All-Star break. So, if Towns is set to miss multiple games, as Saunders implied, he will be out Friday.

Towns has averaged 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 asissts, and 1.2 blocks per game for Minnesota this season. Despite his success, the Wolves have logged just a 16-37 record and have the second-worst record in the West, ahead of only the lowly Golden State Warriors. 

The Celtics will be happy not to face Towns. Over the course of eight career games against the C's, Towns is averaging 21.9 points and 14.8 rebounds per game. And though Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter have outperformed expectations this year, they may have had trouble guarding the talented big man.

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

Joe Harris calls Jayson Tatum Team USA's 'best player' from 2019 FIBA World Cup

The Boston Celtics had a prominent presence on Team USA during the summer of 2019. The squad that competed for the FIBA World Cup title featured four members of the Celtics: Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart.

While the team lost early in the tournament and snapped a historically-long undefeated streak for Team USA via an exhibition loss to Australia, the group did have some nice moments. And it's worth noting that one Team USA player thought a Celtics player shined brightest of all during the tournament.

As Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris explained, he thought Tatum was the best of the bunch for the USA squad.

“I thought Jayson was probably the best player on our team this summer,” said Harris at NBA's All-Star weekend, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “Obviously there were a lot of talented guys there. Unfortunately he got hurt halfway through our trip, but he was leading us in a lot of different areas. It wasn’t this huge statistical thing, I think it was more the presence that he had. What I saw, what he brought every day to practice. It was one of those things where he is super young, but he didn’t act like it, he didn’t play like it, and I could’ve told you this summer that he’d have a pretty good chance to be here today as an All-Star.”

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Tatum only played in two games for Team USA after suffering a sprained ankle, but he did average 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. That closely mirrors the 22.4 points and 6.9 boards that he has averaged so far during the 2019-20 season, his first All-Star campaign. And Tatum only playing in the two wins, not the two losses, is notable as well.

But Harris' point about Tatum having a presence and playing beyond his years may be even more important. If he can continue to develop, keep that presence about him and emerge as a leader, there's no telling what his ceiling could be.

Tatum will look to continue his hot play of late following the All-Star break. And no matter what happens with the C's, it seems that Tatum is tracking toward becoming a star player at the NBA level.

And his peers, like Harris, are recognizing that.

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.