Maybe it was the fact Gordon Hayward was playing in front of friends and family. Or maybe because he knew how much this game, in particular, meant to the struggling Boston Celtics, who had lost four of their last five.
One way or the other, Hayward had an extra bounce in his step Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. And the Celtics needed every bit of it to avoid another devastating loss as they ultimately pulled out a 114-111 victory, despite having led by 16 points midway through the fourth quarter.
Hayward finished with a double-double of 27 points and 10 rebounds all while adding five assists, two steals and one block. Two games after a two-game absence, Hayward played 36 of the 48 minutes while shooting just shy of 53 percent from the field (10-for-19).
It was the first 25-point, 10-rebound game Hayward has had in a Celtics uniform, per team reporter Taylor Snow.
“Yeah, it’s always nice to play in front of friends and family,” the Indiana native said Tuesday, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “But glad we won too. It makes it better when we win.”
The third-year Celtic was all the more impressive due to his efficiency.
Hayward attacked the rim to get better looks, found his mid-range jump shot when they defense presented it and took high-percentage shots from behind the arc, depicted as he shot 43 percent from 3-point range (3-for-7). And when Hayward wasn’t creating shots for himself, he was doing so for teammates, most notably of which was a wide open 3-pointer from the top of the key for Daniel Theis.
Theis’ 3-pointer came at a crucial time as well, tying the game 107-all with 1:41 left.
“I’m happy he hit it ’cause at the time when passed it, I thought maybe I should have shot that layup. I was pretty open,” Hayward said of the assist. “But down three, I thought ‘Have confidence in him.’ That was a big-time shot, That was huge shot.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 11, 2020
Confidence has been a major key not just for Hayward, but the entire team. After all, they’re not far removed from a fourth-quarter collapse in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets last week and another tough-to-swallow loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder most recently.
It’s why both the Celtics and Hayward needed Tuesday’s win — to regain confidence. And hopefully Hayward’s 27-point performance, his fourth-highest point total of the year and eighth-most in a Celtics uniform, will provide that.