It’s hard to imagine how Easter Sunday could’ve gone much better for Gordon Hayward.
The Boston Celtics forward missed last year’s playoff run because of the gruesome, season-ending leg and ankle injuries he suffered six minutes into the season opener in Cleveland, but this time, he was healthy. He was playing in the playoffs about 20 miles from his hometown of Brownsburg, Indiana, and he had his wife and three daughters on hand for the game.
“Yeah, there’s nothing worse than sitting there and not be able to play in the playoffs especially,” Hayward said. “So to be able to be with my teammates, be a part of something like this where we got a chance to sweep the Pacers, after everything that happened last year, it makes it all worth it — no doubt.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china
“And it’s just the beginning for us. We still got a lot of work to do.”
All season, as the Celtics have waxed and waned, their fate has always been tied to Hayward’s play and his progress back from the injuries and subsequent surgeries that cost him a year of his basketball life. Sunday’s performance was the latest example of that — and it offered hope, from Boston’s perspective, that what the Celtics hoped to accomplish when this season began is still in front of them.
The irony of this Celtics season is that while the team was largely (and fairly) criticized throughout the regular season for its failure to make significant steps forward as the season progressed, Hayward quietly did so in the background. He became gradually more aggressive as the season went on, and some of the explosiveness of his game before the injuries has returned.
That was certainly on display in this one, particularly when Hayward brought the ball up the court, took off and threw down a vicious slam dunk, even though it was waived off thanks to an offensive foul on Aron Baynes. Two or three months ago, such a play wouldn’t have been in Hayward’s arsenal.nfl nike jerseys cheap china
When the Celtics needed to close the Pacers out, there was Hayward scoring all nine of his points to help push Boston’s lead from four points with five minutes to go to 10 points with a minute left, ensuring that there would be no need for this series to go back to Boston for a fifth game.
It also meant that the Celtics improved to 7-0 this season when Hayward scores at least 20 points — another indicator of how much it matters to Boston to get him going.