BOSTON (CBS) — Gordon Hayward’s comeback season has had its share of highs and lows.
For the low, look no further than Monday night in San Antonio, when Hayward put up a goose egg in the box score. He missed all six of his shots in the 120-111 Boston loss, and played his worst 22 minutes of the season.
But that was 2018. With the calendar now reading 2019, Hayward got aggressive Wednesday night and once again feasted on a matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
His previous high for the season was a 30-point outburst against the Timberwolves in Minnesota back on Dec. 1. That changed Wednesday night. Hayward didn’t have to wait long to put that performance in San Antonio in the rear-view mirror, once again shredding the Timberwolves to the tune of 35 points in the C’s 115-102 win in Boston.
The Celtics needed someone to emerge as their go-to guy with Kyrie Irving sidelined with an eye injury. Early on, there was no indication that it would have been Hayward. He started his night by missing his first two shots, which the veteran said in the past (even at points this season) would have discouraged him for the evening.
But then it was like a switch flipped. Hayward got aggressive, and with that, regained some confidence. He took advantage of the open looks his teammates were creating for him, and after going scoreless in his first six and a half minutes on the floor, Hayward dropped all 35 of his points over an incredibly efficient 25 minutes. He picked the Minnesota defense apart, going 14-of-18 from the floor and 4-of-7 from downtown.
“Whether it’s for my shot or for others, I think the team needs me to be aggressive,” Hayward said after the win. “Anytime you have a game like last game, you want to come out and be ultra-aggressive.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he he knew his forward was going to have a good game when he saw him in the gym early Wednesday morning.
“He’s going to make a lot of shots because he’s got a lot due,” said Stevens. “He was disappointed in how he shot the ball, obviously, in San Antonio and got back in the gym this morning and you can tell he was going to play pretty well. I mean, 14-of-18 is an unbelievable night and you’re not always going to shoot it like that. But you could tell he was pretty locked in and was going to play well.”
Hayward is still not all the way back from that gruesome ankle injury he suffered on opening night last season, but Wednesday was another positive step in the right direction.
“I think it’s slowly getting there,” said Hayward. “I think my lateral movement, it’s so much better since the beginning of the season, but I think that’s pretty close to where it was. I think vertically, I still have a little ways to go. My ankle is a little sore right now but I think in April and May, it’ll be better than it is right now. I’m still doing stuff for my ankle every day, trying to get it better.”
The next big step in his comeback is consistency. And not just consistency with his scoring, but consistently being aggressive in his time on the floor.
“In two games, it was night and day,” he said. “Consistency is going to be huge, to have, not necessarily games like this all the time, but games where I’m aggressive and attacking as opposed to being passive.”