clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

When Gordon Hayward plays like a star, the Celtics ARE as good as we thought

New, comments

When Hayward shines, Boston looks like a juggernaut.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Gordon Hayward scored 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting in Boston’s stunning, get well, wire-to-wire, 33-point win against Golden State in Oakland on Tuesday. It was the Warriors’ worst loss at home since Nov. 28, 2009 — ironically, also 33-point loss to the Celtics — and Hayward’s production off the bench was at the center of it.

Hayward shot 12-of-16 from the field and 4-of-7 from three. He was a game-high plus-32, meaning Boston outscored Golden State by 32 in the 28 minutes he was on the floor.

Hayward scored from all over: behind the arc, at the rim, off the dribble and as a cutter. It’s the all-around game Boston’s general manager Danny Ainge salivated over when he signed the former Jazz all-star to a four-year, $128 million deal two summers ago.

Of course, in his first regular-season game after signing his contract in Boston, Hayward suffered a season-ending fractured tibia and dislocated ankle. He spent a year rehabbing and a good chunk of this season matriculating back into Boston’s rotation. Above all else wrong with Boston this year, Hayward’s inability to return to being the player he was in Utah loomed large.

But after his best game of the season by a landslide, the Celtics, who had lost five of their last six games entering the win over the Warriors, suddenly look like a rejuvenated team. Kyrie Irving said it was the ball movement, and yes, Boston’s 38 assists definitely played a role in taking down the championship favorites.

But the bottom line is the Celtics look like the great team we expected when Hayward plays well

Game score is a metric that’s a lot like Player Efficiency Rating. Basketball-Reference defines is as giving “a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game.” A game score of 40 is an outstanding performance. A game score of 10 registers as average.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton was the first to point it out: Boston is really good when Hayward registers a game score of at least 14. The Celtics are 13-1 when he plays well, according to that advanced metric. They’re 20-20 when his game score is worse than 10.

Advanced statistics usually aren’t the end-all, be-all, but the numbers in this instance don’t lie. Hayward is averaging 21 points on 60 percent shooting in games with a 14 game score. That’s the kind of production the Celtics have needed from him all along. They’re incredibly good when he plays well.

After all, this is what Ainge was banking on. Irving is a supreme scorer, a killer in crunch time and a playmaker with championship pedigree. Al Horford is a defensive anchor, a ball mover, a floor spacer and post play-maker. Jayson Tatum is a star in the making. Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart have ceilings as high as they can reach.

What Boston needed to complete its lineup was a proven wing playmaker, someone who can get a bucket for himself with or without the ball. What they needed was a healthy Hayward.

Boston’s 33-point victory over the Warriors was a glimpse at what can happen when they have one.