While I celebrate our 10-1 record with every Celtics fan, I find myself concerned if we will continue not just the win streak, but overall play while we wait for Gordon Hayward's return. We have eked out our past two wins very narrowly against teams that should have been rather easy to beat, and it bears the question... Are we struggling to fill The Hayward Hole?
Offensively, Gordon Hayward brought nearly 20 points a game. It's no secret we are desperately missing those buckets when we struggle against teams like Washington and Golden State. Kemba, Jayson, Jaylen are are doing their part, but overall, can't make up for those extra buckets. We're also missing the way Gordon just knows where and when to be to either assist his teammates (averaging 4 assists a game), or to catch the perfect pass and drop the ball in. He's also been getting to the FT line where he's shooting 84.2%, which has made us comfortably ahead in many of our games. Thankfully we do have Marcus Smart who has always made winning plays, and is becoming a more consistent shooter. But again, Hayward's offensive hole is very hard to fill.
Defensively, we are seeing a huge hole in rebounds. Gordon was averaging seven rebounds a game. I've always said as rebounds go, so does the victory. I understand that even if we lose the overall rebound battle we can still win the game, but it just makes it that much harder. We have very few guys that are fighting to take away the second chance points from our opponents, and even less battling for the offensive rebounds. Now that Kanter is back, I hope to see this stat line change. In addition to rebounding, Gordon's basketball IQ just helps him to know where to be defensively. He has thwarted many opposing teams shots and created several turnovers. Again, I don't want to take away from what our guys are doing without him, Gordon just makes winning so much easier when he's on the court.
Leaving his team play for a moment, I feel that mentally Gordon was finally coming back to the level of confidence he had when we first signed him. There's no hesitancy for him to aggressively get into the paint. Nor was he deterred when he missed his first shot. He's not afraid to go up for the alley-oops, and I can just tell he knows he deserves to be in the starting five. This injury was just bad luck and bad timing. I expect when he returns that he will still be at the level he was when he exited. I'm especially grateful that it wasn't his shooting hand that was injured. Hopefully #20 will return sooner rather than later and perfectly fill the hole that he left behind.
Gordon, I wish you a fast and speedy recovery, and as for the Celtics, we've got a tough West Coast line up to continue. But I have full confidence in Brad Stevens and our guys to figure out how to get the wins to keep us number one. Let's do this and as always, #bleedgreen!
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