BOSTON — The Celtics’ starting five looked a bit different Wednesday night at TD Garden.
With Kyrie Irving (knee) and Terry Rozier (illness) both sidelined, Boston found itself a bit slim at guard depth. But instead of rolling with a conventional guard to fill the frontcourt void left by Irving’s and Rozier’s absences, head coach Brad Stevens instead opted for size.
Gordon Hayward made his return to the starting lineup against the Detroit Pistons, marking just his second start since Nov. 19. The veteran forward looked comfortable from the get-go amid the tactical change, as he scored two of Boston’s first three baskets in its eventual 118-110 win. Hayward finished with 18 points and eight assists just one night after scoring a game-high 26 points in the Celtics’ much-needed road victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
After the game, Stevens explained the decision to reinsert Hayward into the starting lineup.
“When our offense started taking off I feel like we’ve had a couple of point guards in the game at once, and playing him as a second point guard with (Marcus) Smart we thought was really important,” Stevens said. “When Kyrie’s not here usually we start Terry, Smart and kind of keep that thing going. But that was the general thought. We knew we were going to switch a lot and the bigger that we could be along the perimeter the better. Those guys (Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond) are a load, Griffin’s a load. We wanted to guard the 3-point line as well as we could and we wanted to make sure that we just tried to have a body on them at all times. Another 6-foot-9 guy is a good thing.”
Hayward downplayed the difficulty of shifting from a reserve to a starter, noting the Celtics have done quite a bit of shuffling since the beginning of the campaign.
“Sometimes we switch up the lineups a lot,” Hayward said. “There have been times over the course of the season where I’ve just played with all the guys. I think we’re used to switching up the lineups. Guys are coming in and out and rotations are sometimes different. I think that helps when guys go in and out, but we’ve also dealt with some injuries over the course, too. Guys have been able to adjust on the fly.”
The Celtics’ roster is loaded with versatile players, which presents Stevens with a seemingly countless number of options when it comes to lineups and rotations. While many believe this influx has prevented Boston from forming an identity, it just might be its strongest asset come playoff time.
Here are some other notes from Wednesday’s Celtics-76ers game:
— Al Horford put together another strong performance with 17 points. His 14 rebounds represented a new season-high.
— Hayward has scored 18 points or more in four of his last five games.
— Smart snapped his cold spell from distance in a major way. After his first four missed 3-pointers of the game extended his skid to 0-for-20 from beyond the arc, Smart knocked down his next four treys.
— Despite the interior presences of Drummond and Griffin, the Celtics still managed to outrebound the Pistons by a 47-41 margin.
— Boston now has won 23 games at TD Garden this season, tied for the most home victories in the Eastern Conference.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images