SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- When it comes to big performances, Gordon Hayward has been consistent in not getting too high on his play or too low when he struggles.
But Wednesday night was different.
The usually emotionally reserved Hayward couldn’t contain himself after draining a game-winning shot with two seconds to play that lifted Boston to a 111-109 victory.
And neither could his teammates who, when he has had big games scoring the ball in the past, drenched him with cups of Gatorade during his post-game interview with NBC Sports Boston.
“Gordon made a great play there at the end,” said Kings head coach Dave Joerger. “I thought it was just a terrific basketball game.”
For Hayward to drain the game-winning shot was fitting when you consider it was Hayward fouling Sacramento’s Buddy Hield shortly before that on a 3-point attempt that allowed Hield to go to the free throw line where he made all three of his free throws to tie the game at 109.
As Hayward made his way up the court for what turned into the game-winning shot following Hield's free throws, Hayward recognized that Sacramento’s defenders were covering his teammates tightly.
Which meant no help-side defense if he decided to attack the paint.
“It was almost like a one-on-one,” said Hayward who had 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting which included of course, the game-winning shot with two seconds to play.
☘️ CELTICS 111, KINGS 109
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- Highlights: C's win it late
- Watch: Hayward's game-winner
For those who may not remember, there was a time not that long ago when Hayward’s ability to take guys off the dribble and score with and without contact, was a strength.
He’s not back to that point yet, but there’s no denying his play on Wednesday was yet another step in the right direction for Hayward whose confidence continues to grow as the season inches closer and closer to the playoffs.
“He should have plenty of confidence,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward. “He’s a heck of a player and we all believe in him.”
And Wednesday’s performance came on the heels of Boston’s 33-point drubbing of the Golden State Warriors, a game in which Hayward came off the bench to lead all scorers with 30 points.
As impressive as Hayward’s 30-point explosion was, it pales in comparison to what draining a game-winning shot on the road means to both Hayward and the Celtics.
“As soon as he shot that one, it looked good,” said Boston’s Al Horford who had a strong game of his own with 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and a blocked shot. “I’m just happy for him. Through ups and downs, he stayed with it and made that huge shot at the end.”
“It was great to see him make a big shot like that,” said Morris who added that the Celtics wanted no part of an overtime game. “We’re all happy for him. We’re just gonna keep rolling.”
And they will do so supporting Hayward, who has had his share of naysayers this season.
“It shows the confidence he still has,” Morris said. “He’s building, building. A lot of people have been trying to write him off, say he’s not going to be what he was. As a player, that’s tough. He’s done a great job of bottling all that in and continue to play and continue to perform at a high level for us.
Morris added, “We just hope he continues to grow and continues to get better. We’re gonna ride with him.”
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