It’s been over five months since we’ve seen Gordon Hayward in action for a Celtics team that’s found themselves at or right near the top of the East. So late March is probably not the time to get overly reflective on what could have been this season.
There’s also something to be said for the fact that his season-ending loss has (somehow) since been overshadowed by injuries to Daniel Theis, Marcus Smart, and Kyrie Irving. Like Hayward, Theis is done for the year, while Irving and Smart are expected to return sometime in the postseason, should the Celtics advance beyond the first round. The C’s injury woes somehow worsened Wednesday in Utah, too, with the absences of Al Horford and the red-hot Marcus Morris.
But a trip to Utah, where Hayward emerged as a legitimate franchise piece for the Jazz before leaving for Boston last summer, couldn’t help make you think what could have been with a healthy Hayward in the mix. How different would the team’s offensive gameplan look, how would their rotation figure itself out, and what would their win-loss record look like? And how would the Utah crowd treat Hayward after seeing what he can and would do with a full assortment of weapons riding into town with him?
Those questions, at least in the now, are gigantic wastes of time. So you instead had to continue to try and find the silver linings within his loss from the lineup, at the very least.
And leave it to one of those silver linings to drop the game-winning shot in 97-94 comeback win for the C’s.
Down Hayward, Morris, and Theis, the impact from the wing seems 100 percent reliant on the production of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. We could also say that the recent loss of Irving has left Celtic coach Brad Stevens to turn to the duo for more scoring, too. (Is there anything the Celtics don’t rely on Brown to accomplish at this point?) And that means that they’re going to face the absolute best that a team can throw at them.
That was largely true in what seemed like a must-win for the desperate Jazz, too.
You almost constantly saw Brown and Tatum driving to the basket and attempting to get around Rudy Gobert, who has to be a lock for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and sometimes having to fight through both Gobert and the feisty Jae Crowder.
These attempts were met with varying results, too. At one point in the game, Brown pulled off a terrific off-hand floater over Gobert, and other times found himself outright denied into a turnover (he finished with a team-high four turnovers in the win). There were times where Tatum’s drive to the hoop paid off, and other times where the bounces went the other way and led to quick points in transition for Utah.
But you never saw these players shy away from anything thrown their way.
It’s too late in the season for that kind of nonsense to derail the Celtics. The Hayward wound is so far out of this team’s mind, and these players have long-welcomed the challenge of being the next man up for The Green. This confidence and swagger has permeated throughout the rest of the roster when other injuries have struck, too.
A downright nasty fourth quarter performance from Terry Rozier, 0-for-his-8 shots, spoke to this, as he heated up with significant buckets in a 4-for-7 finish to his night.
Bookending a perfect 4-0 road swing with yet another comeback, the Celtics return to Boston with 14 double-digit comebacks this season (the second-most in the NBA), and with a league-high five field goals dropped in the final five seconds of play this year.
All without Hayward. And everybody else, for that matter.
Full article @ Celtics 97, Jazz 94: How does this team continue to win?
Source: GreenStreet Blog