It has been an up-and-down season for Gordon Hayward this year. Every time you think he is back playing at a high level, an injury knocks him out for extended amount of time and throws off all the consistency he was trying to build. Over the past four games, he seems back at that All-Star level he displayed in Utah and is playing with so much more ease and confidence.
He is scoring 24.8 points per game shooting 55.6% on only 15.8 shots over the last four games. The efficiency has been incredible as of late with Hayward knowing where he best can succeed. This has been through driving to the basket, pulling up from his patented mid-range game, and also stepping back behind the line and taking three-point attempts. From three, Hayward is shooting 47.4% on 4.8 attempts per game. Also, add 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists to the stat line as well.
Even as this may only be a small snapshot of his success this season, the point is that Hayward has found his rhythm. His 25-point game against the Golden State Warriors on Thursday was his fourth 20-point game in a row. That is the first time he has done that in a Celtics jersey. This is the Gordon Hayward that we want to see each and every night.
The key to his recent successes is that Hayward is going back to what he knows best. In Utah, he was deadly from the mid-range, finding the open part of the court and hitting the jumper. It was this staple move combined with the driving ability that made him an All-Star.
While getting back his legs back under him over the past two seasons, Hayward resorted to many jump shots which were not always the best shot. Now, he seems to have no fear attacking and finishing around the rim. It is worth noting that over the past two games, he had 10 free throw attempts against the Miami Heat and 6 free throw attempts against the Warriors.
Hayward is committed to finding the open lane and attacking the rim. Here, in this first clip, Hayward understands that he is the floor general on this fast break. He could have kicked it to the corner (and maybe would have last season), but instead, stays strong, drives in, and kisses one off the glass for two.
Check out the other clip of him finding his way around the closeout defender to the lane all the way to the basket. (Shout out to Daniel Theis for sealing that edge. He has used that screening ability multiple times this season.)
The other improvement in Hayward’s game has been his pull-up mid-range shooting. Each time he dribbles up, there is always a chance he gets the defender on their heels and drains the shot from the free-throw line. It is why his efficiency numbers have been so solid during this stretch. Hayward knows the best places on the court for him to knock down the shot, and it’s something to watch for when he dribbles around and surveys the defense for cracks and space.
The reason this works so well is that no defender is willing to give up an easy drive to the rim, so they sit back which allows Hayward to pull-up on his spot and have an uncontested two. When he is shooting well, he buries these shots. Here, against the Heat, he takes advantage of Goran Dragic actually coming out too far using a shot fake. This creates the seam for Hayward to drive by Dragic then have Chris Silva sit back, allowing to Hayward shield the shot from the defender behind him with his body and knock down the basket.
It is very exciting that Gordon Hayward is finally finding his rhythm again. With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum struggling with injuries, Hayward has stepped up into this new scoring role and taken advantage of the additional opportunities. It is a role that does not need to let up once everyone gets healthy.