Gordon Hayward was playing some of his best basketball as a Boston Celtic before spraining his ankle and leaving the NBA bubble to treat it.
But in his first game back in over a month, and with all the momentum in the Eastern Conference Finals at stake, the forward had a number of key contributions in their Game 3 win over the Miami Heat.
In a game Hayward was questionable to play in, he logged over 30 minutes.
“He’s just getting back, he hasn’t played in four weeks, so 30 minutes was a huge plus,” Brad Stevens told reporters in a video conference Monday. “It was one of those deals where he looked pretty good the whole time. He asked to be taken out a few times, but I thought for the most part looked pretty good and that now is a good thing because he knows he can do that, and it’s good that we had this little break in between and knowing that was important.”
The Celtics and Heat don’t play again until Wednesday for Game 4.
With Hayward’s transition back into playoff basketball from his injury, the extra time off is helpful.
“We’re going to need Gordon,” Marcus Smart said. “When he’s out there, we’re the best that we can be so having these days off is definitely very, very, very important for us and his standpoint of helping us get him back and get back in.”
The Celtics certainly needed him in Game 3 on the glass, attacking the zone and making plays on both ends of the court.
Hayward had six points on 2-for-7 shooting, but racked up five defensive rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block against the Heat. That balanced performance is why his coach isn’t worried about getting him more involved with scoring. Especially when his offensive contributions are so evident.
“As far as incorporating (Hayward), we need to find the best shot for our team,” Stevens said.
“We’re just going to make the right play for our team and that’s all we’re focused on, that’s all we want to do and he’s good at that. He’s good at playing off the ball and he’s good at cutting, he’s good at making the next right play and he’s ok if he doesn’t shoot it 15 times. It doesn’t bother him one bit.”
The Celtics usually are great at playing off of each other and getting a feel for who’s hot in any given game. Now, they just have one of their options back.
Thumbnail photo via Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo/USA TODAY Sports Images