The road back from injury for Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been under a spotlight for much of the 2018-19 NBA season. After Hayward missed all of last year following a gruesome leg injury in the season-opener, it was expected that the forward would need time to return to form. And that’s certainly been the case, but there’s optimism he may be hitting his stride when it matters most.
As the Celtics head into the final stretch of the regular season, Hayward has shown flashes of his pre-injury explosiveness, and that could be big for the team’s postseason outlook. The fans know as much, and it appears his Celtics teammates do as well, which Kyrie Irving addressed recently.
Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston spoke with Irving about Hayward, and the guard admitted that his teammate is playing with more confidence now. Beyond that, he also pointed out that the Celtics are a better team with Hayward being aggressive and actively looking to score.
“We’re best when [Hayward is] looking for his shot. He’s a great facilitator but we need G to score. And I told him that, and I’m going to keep telling to him stay aggressive, be him, and really be that 20-point scorer that he was.”
There’s no question that Irving is correct with these comments, and Hayward has the upside to be a go-to scorer in the playoffs alongside the talented point guard. The 29-year-old’s recent play has also been a key to helping the Celtics turn the tides late in the season.
Gordon Hayward’s Recent Play Leads to Success for Celtics
Looking back to the beginning of March, the Celtics have posted a modest 10-7 record but won four of their last five heading into Friday’s crucial matchup with the Indiana Pacers. While the record through March (and two April games) isn’t overly-incredible, what’s interesting is how the team has fared when Hayward is in the lineup.
Over the 14 games Hayward played in that span, the Celtics were 10-4, although one victory came when he played just one minute. If you exclude that game in which he sat from very early on against the Atlanta Hawks, Hayward has now scored in double figures in seven consecutive appearances. Beyond that, he’s also hit the 10-point mark in 10 of the previous 11 games as well, a stretch which includes two 15-point showings, one with 19 and others with 25 and 30.
Hayward’s Improved Shooting Marks, Efficiency
Going back to December, we’ve seen Hayward’s overall shooting percentages increase, and he’s been more efficient in the process. He posted back-to-back months where he shot 37.0 and 46.5 percent while attempting 9.0 and 9.2 shots per game in December and January. The two months to follow featured a 51.2 and 55.6 percent mark from the field while he attempted 8.0 and 8.3 shots.
Looking directly at the most recent stretch from the forward, Boston has gone 7-1 since the start of March when Hayward shoots 50.0 percent or better from the field. In games when he’s fallen short of that mark, the team is 1-3, but their jump to No. 4 in the Eastern Conference has been partially due to his overall play.
It’s apparent that Hayward is taking strides forward and getting more confident and comfortable. And with the Celtics loaded with talent and more than capable of doing damage in the playoffs, it may all be coming together at the perfect time.