In this Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat, the Celtics were able to win game 3 117-106. As expected, Gordon Hayward was a difference-maker for Boston that led them to the win. And with Hayward back, they may have changed the look of the series.
The first two games were airtight. Erik Spoeltra’s zone defense appeared to be an issue for Brad Stephens team. In game 3, Hayward interrupted that by flashing to the middle of the zone. While cutting, Hayward was able to facilitate and break down the defense. Which caused a bunch of running around from Miami. Although he finished with 6 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds Hayward's impact was felt.
Both teams have a few days to rest and recoup until game 4. This plays more into the Celtics hands as Hayward gets back in the groove. Coming off an ankle sprain he’ll be able to get more shots up before the next game. The Celtics will be able to get in some practice as a team and film to study on.
It’s also worth noting that Hayward is no stranger to Brad Stephens and his system. Hayward is a former Butler player under Stephens. The former all-star forward understands what is expected from Stephens on the court. Hayward will also give the rest of the stars fewer minutes they desperately need.
The last series against Toronto the Celtics stars played over 40 minutes in multiple games. The 1st and 2nd game of this eastern conference finals also came down to the wire. There are points in the 2nd half where Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker look fatigued. Now that a guy who averages over 17 ppg is back, less stress will be on the starters. Now someone like Marcus Smart can focus on guarding the leading scorer Goran Dragic instead of scoring. At certain points there seemed to be no option on offense, but now Hayward is a new one.
On the defensive end, the Celtics now have a 6’8 guy who can defend the perimeter. Guys like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro who can shoot the lights out will have to shoot over tall guys. Lengthy guys like 6’7 Tatum, 6’8 Jaylen Brown, and now 6’8 Hayward will definitely be impactful. Now Brad Stephens may be less reluctant to switch everything when Kemba Walker isn’t on the court.
Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday night at 8:30 pm. It’ll be a crucial and pretty different look of a game than the others. I don’t expect Jimmy Butler to be as passive. Hayward will drop more points and take more shots on offense. The Heat won’t have as much success with the three-ball given the Celtics size in the backcourt. Bam Adebayo will undoubtedly still be an issue but under a bit more control. Especially now that Brad Stephens has some time to prepare for it.
Featured Image Via Celtics Blog