Why Gordon Hayward needed matchup vs. Cavs

Nick Friar
December 10, 2019 - 6:30 am

As expected, the Celtics could afford a fair amount of mistakes in Monday’s game against the Cavs. Because Cleveland isn’t a good NBA team. Not solely because of their limited talent. The Cavs were immensely disjointed, as well.

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But that’s why they were the perfect opponent for Gordon Hayward in his first game back from his hand injury. He was able to make mistakes and reintegrate himself back into the offense.

Now, one thing that didn’t change was Hayward’s approach in transition. He was aggressive, like he’d been before, and filled the lanes well. Though, he was tentative in the halfcourt offense to start.

Eventually, he worked through that and scored a few mid-range jumpers against Cedi Osman and Kevin Love, along with some other quality looks.

But Hayward felt it was more important he got an idea for how his hand would feel when things got physical.

“The hand feels good. Get some more treatment on it tomorrow. Get ready for the next game,” he said. “(I didn’t notice anything) when I was out there playing. I think tonight was a good test, too, dealing with their bigs and trying to block them out. Certainly, like I said, I have to build some more strength up in it. My motion is not all the way back, but I don’t feel like it affected me.”

Scoring 14 on 7 of 10 shooting over 26 minutes in Boston’s 110-88 win over the Cavs doesn’t mean Hayward will necessarily look like he did right before his injury when the Celtics visit Indiana on Wednesday — but this does jump-start the process. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' win, click here.)

At this stage, it’s more about Hayward’s mental approach — regarding two aspects of his game

He’s made it pretty clear his hand feels good. Like Hayward said, he just has to build up confidence in his ability to handle physical situations.

Also, he needs to get back in sync with the rest of his teammates. Starting things off against the Sixers, or even the Pacers, might’ve limited Hayward’s involvement in the flow of the game — regardless of the fact Jayson Tatum feels Hayward “is an easy guy to play with.”

Hayward was able to focus on rebuilding chemistry with his teammates in what was a relatively easy win.

“It was good. I think today was the first one,” Jaylen Brown said. “We got to continue to find a rhythm and stuff like that. Just figuring that out. But I think it’ll continue to get better.

“I think you have to adjust (with Hayward back) a little bit, definitely. But coming out, he definitely helps our team. We’ll make the adjustment and continue to play better.”

Boston’s starters combined for 85 points on 62.5% shooting. None of the starting five shot under 50%.

Kemba Walker led the Celtics with 22 points and seven assists. Brown also had a 20-point game, along with seven boards. Tatum had a double-double (19 points and 11 rebounds). Daniel Theis was a perfect 4-for-4 in his 10-point performance.

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