It hardly should be a surprise that Gordon Hayward elevating his game and the Boston Celtics dusting the Golden State Warriors happened on the same night.
The Celtics have longed for the version of Hayward they got in Tuesday night’s 128-95 dismantling of the Warriors at Oracle Arena. The forward dropped 30 points on 12-for-16 shooting, adding seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. He set a personal best in first-half points in a Celtics uniform, scoring 19 on 7-for-8 shooting in the opening 24 minutes.
Hayward even made a little history in the process, joining Kevin McHale and Ricky Davis as the only Celtics to ever score 30-plus points off the bench three times in a single season.
Lofty expectations for Hayward heading into this season probably were unfair given the injury he was coming off of. He’s shown flashes of his old self this season already, however twice it was against a pretty bad Minnesota Timberwolves team. So the fact that he went scorched earth against the class of the NBA must be encouraging for Hayward and his Celtics teammates.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of Hayward’s performance was how comfortable he looked. Far too often this season Hayward has looked slow, lost or both. From the second the 28-year-old checked in at Oracle, he looked at ease on both ends of the floor the way the Celtics clearly envisioned when they committed four years and a significant amount of cash to him.
Now, the question becomes consistency — something the Celtics as a team have struggled with all season. We’ve seen Hayward do this before, and while asking him for 30 every night from here on out is unreasonable with all the mouths to feed in that offense, him being the player the Celtics so desperately need him to be must become more of a constant.
Here are some other notes from Tuesday’s Celtics-Warriors game:
— While it clearly was Hayward’s night, the Celtics certainly didn’t have too many passengers.
Kyrie Irving posted a double-double, scoring 19 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Jaylen Brown added 18 points, while Jayson Tatum contributed 17.
— Much of the recent focus during game’s has been on Irving’s disposition on the bench and when he’s playing.
Every time the camera panned to Irving on Tuesday during TNT’s broadcast of the game, the guard seemed to be beaming. Of course, beating down one of the NBA’s best teams will bring a smile to anyone’s face, but Irving (and the entire team, for that matter) genuinely seemed more comfortable Tuesday night, even before they started widening their lead.
In his postgame interview with Caron Butler, Irving was pretty candid about changing the talking they’ve been doing into action.
— The Celtics have not been great against the Western Conference this season, but they did a good job bucking that trend in the first contest of their four-game California road trip. With Tuesday’s victory, the Celtics climb to 11-13 against the West this season.