As the Celtics hope to keep their 3 game winning streak alive, more good news appears. Former All-Star Gordon Hayward has played stellar as the season has gone on. Stellar enough to make the case that he’s back in his prime form.
It was against the Cavaliers" first game when the injury occurred. Hayward went for a play on the ball and came down on one foot at an awkward angle. The diagnoses was a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia. Many players turned away from the scene as it was too gruesome to look. Hayward ended up missing out the entire 2017-2018 season. The next season, Coach Stephens worked him in a few minutes but it was clear he wasn’t the same. This year, he has come back strong.
Hayward is currently averaging 17.5 points a game. Which is only 4 points under his All-Star year of 21.9 points. That’s still impressive considering he’s neither the #1 or #2 offensive option on his team now. As opposed to Utah, where he was the main guy scoring baskets and getting the most shots. But with fewer shots taken, Hayward made up for its inefficiency. The forward is shooting 50% from the field and 85% from the free-throw line. Both are the best of his career so far. And since the NBA resumed, he’s been turning it up inside the bubble.
Since the reboot, Hayward has been given a heavy dose of minutes and offense. He’s averaging 18.7 points a game and well over 30 minutes. In the win against Orlando, he dropped 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists for the 39 minutes he was on the floor. In recent games Hayward has not only been shooting well but aggressively attacking the basket. He has had no issue getting to the rim. And knocking down free throws when fouled.
On the defensive end, Hayward has effectively been guarding players on the perimeter. Typically from the injury, he’s had it would be hard to get back lateral quickness. Or getting off the ground quickly for that matter. Instead, Hayward has been grabbing boards, averaging 6.7 on the season and 7.7 since his return. His bounce his back as he’s been finishing above the rim and running the floor. One may even make the case that he has become an even better defender than his years at Utah. With age and experience comes IQ and he has definitely shown that on the court.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the former Butler forward is back to his former self. Hayward has been key to the current winning streak the C’s are on right now. Since veteran Kemba Walker has been getting some more rest, Hayward has stepped up. As a veteran, he’s leading by example on how to win games down the stretch despite the long minutes played. If he continues at this level of play, the Celtics can be scary leading into the playoffs.
Featured Image Via TSN.com