By JD PELEGRINO
“I think with each game it gets better and better,” Hayward said about his strength and gameplay. “I think week-by-week too, month-by-month.
One week ago, Hayward expressed his trust in the process of recovery and improving his game to where he, the Celtics, and everyone around knows can be at. Hayward has scored double digits in five of the last seven
Hayward reached peak form last night against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Cs walked into Wells Fargo Arena the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and looked to flip positions with the No. 4 Philly. Hayward led the Celtics to a 112-109 win with a game-high 26 points. All-star Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving did not play.
Hayward shot the second-best percentage of his season last night .727 dropping six in from three, two from the floor and was 100 percent from the free-throw line shooting 4-for-4. Hayward played 28 minutes, leading everyone on the bench and helped carry the momentum of the game. According to Hayward, the offense and stopping the 76ers in transition made a great recipe for victory.
“Yeah, I thought that we got some timely stops there, but I think most importantly, I think we played and got good shots on the offensive end,” Hayward said. “[We] didn’t allow them to get too many things in transition. That’s where I think they’re really, really dangerous with all the athletes they have and guys that can space and shoot and finish. That was key for us.”
Hayward didn’t enter the game until there was five minutes left in the first quarter. Just a minute and a half later around three minutes, Hayward splashed for the first time knocking down a 25-foot three pointer. Two possessions later, Daniel Theis made a three pointer of his own. Hayward wasn’t done. Following Theis’ three pointer, Hayward made his second three in just over a minute.
Moving into the second quarter, the Cs held the lead 28-23. Hayward helped propel the offense forward early in the quarter with another 25-footer. The Celtics carried the pace through the rest of the second quarter to close out the half 52-46.
Midway through the third, Hayward connected on a jumper for two and then was fouled the next time the ball found him. He went 2-for-2 from the line, the Cs were then down 62-66. After Theis slammed the ball in for two, Hayward put the cherry on top making his fourth three of the game to take Boston’s lead back 67-66.
Moving into the fourth, the Cs only led by a single shot 77-74. Hayward carried to torch for his team, making the team’s first shot of the quarter to add two. Hayward finished the fourth quarter with eight points and helped his team get the win 112-109 against a powerful 76ers team.
What does a win like this mean for the Celtics? How important is it to defeat an elite team like the 76ers this close to the end of the regular season? Hayward had the answer.
“Yeah, I mean, I think it was a good win for us, especially considering the last two that were dropped and just some frustrations in those,” Hayward said. “I said it after those games, we played well in stretches but played miserable in other stretches, so for us to get the win tonight, like you said, against a very quality opponent was big, especially on the road without Kyrie [Irving], it was huge.”
Hayward had a game-high 26 points, four rebounds, three assists, shot .727, and went 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The win would not have been possible without Hayward’s productivity on the offensive end of the floor.
The Celtics had four players with 17 points or more. A win like this over a talented 76ers, without start PG Kyrie Irving shows the depth and consistency of the Boston Celtics. With this win, the Celtics move up into fourth place in the East and will continue to climb the rankings.
In a quick turnaround, Boston will host the Detroit Pistons tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET at TD Garden.