With Playoffs Near, Celtics’ Gordon Hayward Finally Feels ‘Explosive’

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Gordon Hayward is playing the best basketball of his Boston Celtics career, and he couldn’t have chosen a better time.

From the start of the season, Hayward has been hampered by the lingering effects of the devastating ankle injury he suffered in 2017. Nowhere has the star forward been more glaringly limited than with his drives to the basket, many of which have ended either in turnovers, passes to the perimeter or feeble attempts at finishing at the rim. From first step to last, Hayward has looked awkward and nothing like the guy who played at an All-Star level for the Utah Jazz.

But with just two games left in the regular season and the postseason one week away, Hayward appears to have turned a corner.

The 29-year-old is averaging 17.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.8 steals in 27.5 minutes per game in his last five games. Hayward is shooting 64.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range over that span. The hot stretch — which can be traced back nearly a month, really — has pushed Hayward’s season line up to 11.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game — far cries from the numbers he put up in his final three seasons in Utah, but still much better than they were a couple months ago.

Most importantly, Hayward looks like a different player than he has for much of the season. Ahead of Sunday’s game against the Orlando Magic at TD Garden, Hayward talked about his late-season surge.

Here’s what he had to say, via The Athletic’s Jared Weiss:

“Explosive” certainly isn’t an adjective we expected to see attached to Hayward this season, either by himself or those watching him. And while that particular word might be a tad strong, there’s no denying Hayward is attacking the rim with more authority and shooting with more confidence as of late.

If those two trends continue, Hayward might be a legitimate weapon for the Celtics in the playoffs.

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