By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Gordon Hayward no longer thinks about the leg that looked like a Mortal Kombat fatality just over two years ago. Not even in the building where it happened, and first derailed the hope of the Kyrie Irving Celtics, on a night where he dropped 39 points.
“I don’t think about [my leg],” Hayward told reporters after the 119-113 victory, Boston’s fifth straight. “I haven’t thought about it for a while. I think it’s over. You guys can stop asking me the questions about that.”
And it’s the latest confirmation that Hayward, who signed a four-year max deal with the Celtics in 2017, has officially arrived.
Now, I think you could argue that Hayward first showed signs of returning to form in the second half last year. He was especially strong on the team’s California trip last February, with dominant efforts in wins over Golden State and Sacramento. The Celtics recognized the importance of those nights, too, dousing Hayward in water after the win in Sacramento. It was just the start of what was a strong finish, too, as Hayward’s confidence returned (as did his ability to run the Boston offense as a No. 1), and made him one of the Green’s more promising talents in an otherwise disappointing-as-hell nine-game postseason run.
And if those were strides, this was a full-blown sprint.
Off to a ridiculous start, Hayward finished his first quarter with 16 points behind a 7-for7 start, was 9-for-9 with 22 points by halftime, and finished with 39 points behind a 17-for-20 effort. In fact, all three of Hayward’s misses came from three-point land, meaning the 6-foot-8 wing finished a ridiculous 16-for-16 from inside the arc. That performance was enough to tie Hayward with NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain for the most two-pointers made without a miss in a game.
The performance forced Cleveland to try and give Hayward the key to the city, but he said no, as he instead feasted on Cleveland from inside the arc with the moves that can make him a mismatch for those even outside of Cleveland city limits.
“He’s got that great ability to hit the floater, but he can also stop and do the little fade, and he shoots that all the time in practice,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward. “[Tuesday], that was where he was living mostly.”
Now if his teammates will stop dousing him with water, Hayward would really appreciate that.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a six-point win over the Cavaliers…
Celtics off to their best start in nine years
It’s been nothing but smooth sailing for the Celtics since their Opening Night loss in Philadelphia, as Tuesday’s win made it five straight victories for the Green. It’s enough to move the Celtics into a tie with the Sixers for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and give the C’s their best start since the 5-1 start the 2010-11 squad got off to almost a decade ago.
This year’s group has a long, long way to go when it comes to pacing that team — that 2010-11 team began the year with 23 wins in their first 27 games and finished with a 56-26 record before losing to the Heat in round two — but it’s a start.
Carsen Edwards finally makes NBA splash
A sneaky important development from this game: The debut of the real Carsen Edwards. One of the C’s projected bench scorers in 2019-20, Edwards entered Tuesday’s contest with makes on just five of his 22 attempts from the field, including a 2-for-13 mark from deep, through the first four games of his NBA career. A staunch change from his historic preseason.
But it turns out another head-to-head with the Cavs was all the rookie needed for things to go his way, as he cashed in on five of his six shorts (including three of four from deep) in 14:43 off the Celtic bench. Brad Stevens and the Celtics will need more of that, too, especially when their backcourt runs into early foul trouble or doesn’t have their scoring touch.
Daniel Theis has himself a block party
I’m not sure that Daniel Theis is your season-long answer at center, but the German big man continued to provide some solid fill-in work on Tuesday, finishing with a career-best five blocks in 30 minutes. This continues a mini-trend for the 6-foot-8 Theis, who was credited with four blocks in the Green’s win over the Knicks, and has a team-high 13 blocks on the year.