Hayward Continues To Attack During Boston's Third Straight Win

Marc D'Amico
Team Reporter and Analyst

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BOSTON – There are many things that make the Boston Celtics hum. Chief among them is a high level of aggression from star forward Gordon Hayward, which was on full display Sunday evening during Boston’s overtime win over the Magic.

Hayward did a lot of scoring and a little bit of everything else while leading the C’s to a 122-119 victory, their fourth through six games inside the bubble. He went right at Orlando from the opening tip, scoring nine points during the first quarter and 18 during the first half en route to a game-high 31 points on the night.

Hayward took it to the Magic, and they had no answers for him.

“I just tried to go out there and attack tonight,” he said, “maybe a little more (than normal).”

The Celtics and their fan base are kindly asking for more of that in the future.

Hayward’s aggressiveness set the tone for the night. His teammates followed his lead, which led to Boston depositing a season-best 32 assists into the box score while scoring at least 25 points during each of the four quarters of regulation.

Their combination of aggression and ball movement with their overall talent made them borderline impossible to defend at times.

“I think that our team is at our best when I’m aggressive and attacking,” Hayward said after the game. “I think that it opens the court for everyone else.”

It sure did, especially with the way Haywards saw the court when the ball was in his hands.

“When he’s attacking, we’re better,” said head coach Brad Stevens, “because he makes a lot of great reads with the ball.”

Hayward accounted for five of Boston’s 32 assists while he shot 12-of-18 from the field. Two of his baskets were scored off of driving, two-handed slams that were reminiscent of his All-Star days back in Utah.

The versatile wing earned multiple trips to the free-throw line and shot 5-for-6 from there to tie Jayson Tatum for the team lead in both makes and attempts. He also hauled in nine rebounds and logged a critical chase-down block on D.J. Augustin late in the fourth quarter on a play that undoubtedly provided Boston with an energy boost.

What’s exciting for the Celtics – and scary for their opponents – is that Hayward has been playing at a similar level to Sunday’s performance throughout the NBA’s restart in Orlando. He looks like he’s in mid-season form.

Hayward has arguably been Boston’s most consistent and important player during its 4-2 start inside the bubble. He now carries averages of 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists into Tuesday’s matchup with Memphis. Those numbers rank third, first and third on the team, respectively. He also leads the team’s top perimeter players in shooting percentage at 49.4 percent and has cashed in on 90.6 percent of his free throw attempts.

Those are very impressive numbers for a player who garners far less national attention than teammates like Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker.

“He’s been really good here, for the most part, in these games. He’s been really good,” Stevens said. “He’s been in attack mode the whole time.”

There’s no reason to expect that trend to change as the Playoffs inch closer and closer. Hayward has looked healthier, faster, more explosive and more aggressive than he ever has in a Celtics uniform. It’s no coincidence that the Celtics have simultaneously logged the second-most wins out of the 22 teams inside the bubble while humming at the offensive end.