BOSTON -- Gordon Hayward has scored 8,381 points in the NBA, but two of those points scored last night in Boston's 119-103 win over Charlotte may be the most important he’s scored this season.
With Boston ahead 36-28, Hayward sprinted towards the basket as Terry Rozier, from the other side of the court, threw a well-placed pass that Hayward caught in mid-air and finished with a two-handed dunk.
It was indeed a watershed moment for Hayward who completed a play that was eerily similar to the one which he suffered a season-ending injury last year just five minutes into his first season as a Celtic.
“I didn’t think about that,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens when asked about drawing up the play. “I didn’t think about who was where other than I knew somebody who could catch a lob would be in that spot.
Stevens added, “It was good to see him, obviously, finish it.”
And the man who threw the pass, Rozier, knew from the moment Hayward completed the lob dunk that it was a big moment.
‘It was amazing; it was amazing to see that, be the one to make that pass to him,” Rozier told NBC Sports Boston. “You could see the celebration on the bench. Everybody was happy for him.”
Rozier acknowledged that he told Hayward after the game that he had some reservations at first about making the pass.
But Rozier decided to make the pass and, "just put it up there; he (Hayward) went to go get it."
It is a play that for those who have followed Hayward’s career with the Utah Jazz and to a lesser extent at Butler, had seen him execute time and time again.
But since the season-ending injury in the opener at Cleveland last season, it wasn’t until Sunday night had we seen Hayward complete a play that has been so good to him in past years, in a Celtics uniform.
In a recent interview with NBC Sports Boston, Hayward acknowledged finishing at the rim was one of the last hurdles left for him to overcome in order to feel more like his pre-injury self.
“There’s still some things I lack confidence on,” Hayward told NBC Sports Boston. “I think my leg is probably strong enough to do it. It’s just something that I have to go out there and experience it.”
Which is why Rozier believes that one basket, which didn’t do much in terms of the game’s eventual outcome, may very well be the breakthrough moment Hayward needs to move another step towards regaining his all-star form prior to arriving in Boston.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of things lifted off his shoulders after that play,” Rozier said. “We didn’t talk about it (after the game) but it was just huge, knowing specifically how the incident happened last year, how he’s able to come back the next year and catch that pass and complete it.”
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.