Gordon Hayward left Saturday’s contest versus the Atlanta Hawks early after running into a screen set by John Collins. Hayward was announced as out with a neck strain. On Sunday the team announced that Hayward has been placed in the concussion protocol. The Celtics listed Hayward as doubtful to play against Denver.
Hayward has missed six games this season, in his return from the horrific leg injury that wrecked his 2017-18 season. These missed games have primarily been due to rest/load management and after Hayward rolled an ankle after the All-Star break. This would be the first time he’s missed time due to being in the concussion protocol.
Boston is no stranger to the concussion protocol, as Al Horford has previously gone through the process. As they did with Horford, the Celtics will have to abide by the NBA’s protocol, which includes being cleared by an independent neurologist before the player can return. Boston will not rush Hayward back, and there is no timetable, as each player recovers from a head injury differently.
Speaking of Horford, he is listed as probable for the Nuggets game, as he deals with some left knee soreness. The Celtics previously announced that Horford would sit out three to four games down the stretch for preventative maintenance. Boston, led by Brad Stevens, recognizes the importance Horford has towards playoff success. While no specific details were announced, it’s likely Horford will sit out at least one end of the team’s remaining back-to-back contests. And Stevens will look to spot him rest in some other games as well.
Additionally, Boston announced that Robert Williams is questionable to play against Denver due to illness. Presumably, Williams is dealing with the same illness that has run through the Celtics locker room as of late and has limited Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Daniel Theis and Guerschon Yabusele.
The Nuggets present a big challenge for the Celtics, as they are currently second in the Western Conference with a record of 46-22. Denver beat Boston 115-107 when the Celtics visited Colorado in early-November. Boston blew a 15-point first quarter lead in that game before things ended with some controversy. Late in the fourth quarter, with the Celtics content to let the clock expire, Jamal Murray launched a three-point shot instead of walking off the court. That’s no-no in the NBA’s unwritten rule book. Murray took the shot, as he was looking for a 50-point game, but Kyrie Irving took exception and let everyone know he didn’t like Murray’s decision.
The Celtics would have loved a shot at the Nuggets at full health, but it looks as though Stevens will have some things to manage in Monday night’s contest.