Gordon Hayward is back. The all-star wing scored 30 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 8 assists. He scored from distance ( 4/5 from three), he was a killer at the FT-line (10/10), and he was by far the best Celtic on the court. So here’s how it all went down.
Wolves started off the game fast, hitting 5 of their first 6 shots and the team was quickly fell behind 16-9, but the offense was falling victim to missing some of the open looks that they generated (1/4 from three to start with two of the misses consisting of open Tatum 3’s from the corner). The Celtics were able to quickly respond by going 3 for 4 on their next few looks to regain the lead 23-22, Smart was the surprise leader here making two of his first three attempts during the stretch. As an aside, Smart has had a 65.2 TS% in his last 6 games. Boston closed out the first on a 20-10 run to get out of the first with a 29-26 lead.
The Second half started off as a bit of stalemate with either team really able to take control. Rose got off to a quick shot, leading the Wolves in scoring early. With the game tied at 36, the Celtics responded with a 11-2 run led by back to back 3’s by Morris and an Irving and-1. From there, the Celtics started to take control of the game going up by as much as 13 behind a strong 14 points from Hayward. The veteran did a great job mixing in his playmaking ability with looking for his shot more and he was the catalyst for the Celtics pushing ahead of a surprisingly good Wolves team.
The third quarter was a bit of a stalemate with the Celtics keeping the Wolves at arm distance but not being able to put the game out of reach when they were able to push the lead by 13. Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins made some contributions to quarter, but overall they were only able to shave two points off the lead.
The fourth started off with two runs. The Celtics struck first getting off a 10-point lead followed by the Wolves responding with a 10-0 run of their own to tie up the game at 89. Then, the Celtics responded to that with a 7-0 run fueled by 5-straight from Marcus Morris, promoting the Wolves broadcast to call Morris a real “buzzkill.” With about 4:30 left and the Celtics up 101-94 looking to add to the lead, Irving attacked a Horford PnR but Robert Covington read the kickback to Horford and got a steal plus the and-1 layup giving Morris his 5th foul and changing the game from the Celtics potentially going up by double-digits to the team clinging to a 4-point lead.
The Wolves continued the assault going on a 9-2 run to get themselves within two, but the Celtics countered with a run of their own to back up 6. The Celtics threw in an interesting wrinkle putting Hayward on Rose to counter shiftiness with size. It lead to consecutive turnovers when the guard tried use the PnR and the Celtics used that to push the lead to double-digits.
At this point it’s important that we note that this was the Gordon Hayward game. He got to the line 10 times on his own, he was usually pesky self on defense and he was an absolute killer on the block as a rebounder and passer. He was the Celtics best player tonight and this could be a game we may look back on as the night he found himself. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Celtics played the hottest team in the NBA at home on back to back and never lost the lead once they got it in the first quarter. That’s a quality win.