BOSTON — When Gordon Hayward went as much as try to dam a layup try by Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton halfway by means of the second quarter of the Celtics’ 117-113 victory at TD Backyard, it seemed like merely one second amongst many in what simply was Hayward’s finest recreation of the younger season.
However after Hayward was referred to as for goaltending on the play, he landed totally on his left leg — the identical one he suffered a grotesque damage to final season simply six minutes into his Celtics debut, costing him the rest of the 12 months. In contrast to that play, nevertheless, Hayward on Thursday night time felt solely a momentary flash of ache — after which received up and stored enjoying.
By the top of the sport, he’d not solely put up a formidable stat line — a season-high 18 factors on 6-for-11 taking pictures total, together with 3-for-5 from 3-point vary, plus 4 rebounds, 5 assists and a block in 27 minutes — however he’d additionally checked off an essential field in his try to return to his pre-injury stage of play.
“I can really feel it proper now,” Hayward stated afterward. “It is undoubtedly just a little bit sore… one thing new that I have never performed in awhile. These are issues I simply need to work by means of, possibly some scar tissue that I can grind out just a little bit. It did really feel just a little bit sore, however I believe it held up simply nice.
“I’ve to get knocked down. I’ve to land on that one foot just a little awkwardly, simply so mentally I do know I can do it, but in addition bodily I can maintain and be robust.”
This was an evening that not solely noticed the Celtics lastly get away of a sluggish begin to the season offensively in an enormous method — they went 24-for-55 from 3-point vary as a workforce, setting a franchise-record and coming inside one triple of tying the NBA report because of this — but in addition noticed Hayward give Boston glimpses of what he can do when he is proper.
Hayward opened the scoring for Boston with a 3-pointer, then adopted that up with a block on a drive by Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon and a driving layup in opposition to him on the different finish. It was an indication of issues to come back for Hayward in a recreation that noticed him present the form of ball-handling prowess that offers the Celtics another choice on the perimeter to create photographs. That, in flip, permits Kyrie Irving, who had a second straight robust taking pictures recreation with 28 factors on 10-for-20 taking pictures, together with 6-for-12 from 3, to go along with seven assists, to hunt for photographs off the ball.
“It began off with an excellent begin,” Hayward stated. “Simply was on the market competing, enjoying … I’ve stated it earlier than, however recreation by recreation there’s various things [I’m improving on]. I am getting an increasing number of comfy. Had some open appears to be like from three that have been good, and was in a position to knock them down, and tonight was good for me.”
After being with out Hayward for all of final season, and getting used to having him again out on the courtroom to date this 12 months, Boston will welcome the chance for him to get used to enjoying together with his teammates, and probably giving them the added dimension they should tackle the league’s elite deep within the postseason.
The Celtics started to get a style of what that might appear like in opposition to the Bucks. All 5 starters — together with Semi Ojeleye, who changed injured guard Jaylen Brown (sore proper foot) within the opening lineup — completed the sport in double figures, whereas Marcus Morris added 17 factors off the bench. Simply as essential, although, was having Irving, Hayward, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum every end with at the least 4 assists.
For a workforce that may battle at instances to create photographs on the rim — and is not going to make 24 threes, or try 55 of them, regularly — having a number of gamers create open appears to be like for his or her teammates shall be a vital a part of bettering Boston’s offense, which got here into Thursday’s recreation ranked 28th within the NBA, transferring ahead.
“Properly, I imply all these guys could make performs,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated. “Al on the prime of the important thing permits us to get in additional of our chopping and our motion-type actions, which I actually like, and we did an excellent job of that once we went on that little run within the fourth.
“You have received a bunch of men who can play up there and I believe Gordon’s actually good off pick-and-rolls. Clearly, he is an amazing passer off of these, and so we’ll simply maintain feeding all these guys in these totally different spots. And because the season goes alongside and I get extra comfy with the workforce we’ll add extra to attempt to make the most of that.”
“I had nice years in Utah,” Hayward stated. “I thank the Jazz for every part they did for me in my profession. I used to be actually wanting ahead to final 12 months. Clearly that did not occur, however will probably be an excellent recreation. They are a good workforce.”
When requested how unhealthy the booing could be, Hayward smiled and stated, “It has been a 12 months, so hopefully not as vicious a booing, however I am certain I’ll get booed … It’s what it’s.
“I do not know. I do not know what to anticipate. Hopefully we get a win.”