Why Gordon Hayward has to keep shooting on subpar scoring nights

Nick Friar
January 14, 2020 - 6:45 am
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Six Celtics finished in double figures on Monday. Four of those six players started. The fifth starter was Gordon Hayward. He came up just short (eight points) in the Celtics’ 113-101 win over the Bulls.  (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

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He also came up well short of his season average 16.4 points per game (entering Monday). Furthermore, Hayward didn’t score until the fourth quarter. He’d played over 22 and a half minutes and taken six shots by then.

Then, he rallied in the final quarter, going 4-for-5 in 7 and a half minutes.

Monday’s win also marked the third time in the last five games where Hayward went 4-for-11 from the floor, and the second time in the last three games where he didn’t score at least 10 points by the end of the night.

“He’s never been a guy that I’ve worried about, like starting off slow and not being good at the end. I mean, I think he’s got the wherewithal to do that,” Brad Stevens said following the win over the Bulls. “He’s making a concerted effort to just make the right play on both ends. And other than the shot-missing, I thought he was really good in the first half. And, you know, it’s really important that he — he helps lead us with his reads and passing and getting others the ball at the right times in spots and he’s done a good job of that.”

For a long while, Stevens has stressed Hayward’s ability to facilitate is just as important as what he provides as a scorer. Hayward certainly made an impact with his passing on Monday, tying with Marcus Smart for a team-high eight assists in Boston’s 28-assist night.

But Hayward sees the floor well on most nights. Though there are times he’s not able to get “others the ball at the right times in spots” as often as he did on Monday.

A big reason Hayward was able to find his teammates at the correct moments: he continued to look for his offense, despite the fact his touch was off.

Hayward staying aggressive makes it difficult for defenders to sag off him and, in some instances, forces another opponent to help cover him. In either case, the end result is usually a scoring opportunity for one of his teammates or he passes to the guy that has the chance to log an assist.

“I got to make sure that I’m always attacking and not playing passively,” Hayward told WEEI.com “So, for sure, on nights when I am passive it’s not good for me, it’s not good for our team.”

So even though Hayward wasn’t quite at his best against the Bulls, his approach remained consistent — something Stevens said was crucial when discussing Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum’s development before Monday’s game.

“Consistency, the way we are going to gauge it is not based on whether the ball went in. The consistency the way that they’re often gauged from a public perception is whether the ball went in,” Stevens said. “It’s more about: did you get the right shots, did you do the right things to get the shots you want, did you guard the way you’re capable of guarding? And then, everything else over time, the cream rises to the top with the ability to put the ball in the basket.”

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