Celtics Notes: Gordon Hayward Is Playing His Best Basketball As Celtic In The Bubble

Jayson Tatum came up clutch in the Boston Celtics’ 122-119 win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday. But if we’re being honest, Gordon Hayward was the only reason the team was still in it at the end of the game to force regulation.

And though the Celtics may not have deserved to pull out the victory, Hayward at least certainly did. Boston opened the game with some uninspired basketball, but Hayward provided the fire they needed from the jump.

For the second time this season and the first time since November, Hayward hit the 30-point mark, dropping 31 on the Magic in addition to nine rebounds, five assists and one chase-down block.

He scored from everywhere on the floor, too, with strong finishes at the rim. Hayward shot 12-of-18 from the field and 5-of-6 at the line.

Hayward has ramped up his game in the NBA’s bubble to a level of performance seen few-and-far between since his days with the Utah Jazz. And he knows what it’s bringing to his team.

“I just tried to go out there and attack tonight a little more,” Hayward said after the game, via Boston.com. “… I think our team is at our best when I’m aggressive and attacking. It opens the court for everyone else.”

One thing is certain, the Celtics will miss Hayward terribly when he has to temporarily leave the bubble for the birth of his son. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

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Here are some other takeaways from Sunday’s Celtics-Magic game:

— There certainly were some bright spots to the C’s game. Let’s talk about the bench.

Depth from non-starters who aren’t named Marcus Smart have been a concern all season. But Sunday, the bench gave the Celtics the spark they needed.

After a lackluster offense opened the game, Brad Stevens subbed in Smart and Robert Williams III, who instantly contributed on three-straight possessions. Smart and Williams finished with eight points each, with the latter making the case yet again that he deserves more playing time.

Brad Wanamaker dropped 10 points off the bench, with Enes Kanter and Semi Ojeleye dropping four and three points, respectively.

— The J’s keep developing in big ways right before our eyes.

Jaylen Brown now has a legitimate jumper, to the point where it’s almost automatic. He definitely honed that skill over the pandemic pause and it shows every time he tries for a pull-up 3 from Timbuktu.

Couple this with his elite ability to attack the lane and muscle through tough finishes at the rim and his phenomenal defense, and the sky is the limit for Brown.

Tatum, meanwhile, clearly has put effort into his passing. He had six assists Sunday against Orlando and while they weren’t all jaw-dropping passes, he’s making more and more good decisions with every game. What more could you ask for?

“I think he’s a good player, he’s a smart player,” Stevens said of Tatum, via NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage.

“He can pass the ball, he can make baskets. Every good player wants to shoot the last couple shots, but I think he recognizes that there will be times where he shoots it and times where he has to dish it off. We have a unique team in that regard where we have a lot of different guys we can go to and will go to.”

— The Celtics have locked up the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 spot.

It was the likely outcome after the fourth-place Miami Heat on Saturday fell to the Phoenix Suns, but the Toronto Raptors’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday sealed the deal.

But with their playoff seed set, Stevens said it won’t effect how he goes about his lineup for the Celtics next game against Memphis regarding who to sit or rest.

“No,” Stevens said when asked about if he’ll go about the matchup differently in a meaningless game in terms of playoff standings. “I don’t think about it. It’s not something I consider.”

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Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images