Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has missed the team’s last two games, against the Wizards and Pelicans, with an illness. The Celtics have been just fine without him–they’ll be looking for their eighth win in a row tonight against the Hawks and are finally on the up-and-up after a rough early season–but they’ll have him back tonight as he’s recovered from his sickness.
Hayward has struggled to get back to his peak form as he’s returned from last year’s brutal ankle injury, but he’s working his way back up slowly but surely. He had a season-high 30-point performance against the Timberwolves on December 1st, and has had a few other standout performances throughout the season. He’s far from consistent–he only scored 5 against the Bulls on the 8th–but as long as he can get his confidence back he should be fine.
The Celtics recently moved him to a bench role in an effort to improve their previously-disappointing record, and though it may not have been the entire cure to the team’s inability to get wins, something has certainly changed. The team is now inching its way up the Eastern Conference ladder and are just below the Pacers. A win tonight will be pivotal in helping them take that next step toward hopefully supplanting the dominant Toronto Raptors from that top spot.
The Raptors will be Hard to Knock Off, but Celtics Have Momentum
If they can get a win tonight–likely, considering they’ll be playing the No. 14-ranked Hawks who are working with a 6-21 record–they’ll overtake the 18-10 Pacers and be right on the heels of the 19-10 76ers.
After that it’ll the Bucks and the Raptors, who will be tough to take down even for this stacked Boston team. They were thought to be the frontrunners heading into the season, but this Toronto team has taken everybody by surprise and are now solidly on top with a 23-7 record. Their most recent win was a huge one over the Warriors; they won by 20 points, at Oracle Arena, with the Warriors at full strength (minus Boogie. But does he really count?). This Raptors team is nothing to mess with.
The Celtics are on their way, though. Both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris went off in the team’s win over the Wizards on Wednesday: Irving had 38 points, and Morris contributed 27 along with 9 rebounds. Smart, Rozier, and Tatum chipped in as well, and the team is gelling better than ever. Once Hayward gets up to speed (if he ever does), they’ll be a whole new monster to deal with and the Raptors will definitely have something to worry about.