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Gordon Hayward to miss four weeks with a Grade III right ankle sprain

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No, it’s not THAT ankle. Yes, this will hurt the Celtics.

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Gordon Hayward just can’t catch a break. The Boston Celtics forward sprained his ankle in Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers last night, and it’s much more severe than it looked as he walked off on his own power.

That’s extremely not ideal. This takes Gordon Hayward out at least until the beginning of the Eastern Conference Finals – scheduled to begin September 15th – if the Celtics make it that far without him. Hayward injured his ankle in the second half last night right as he was starting to make a larger impact on the game. After missing significant time this season with a broken bone in his hand early on, Hayward really can’t seem to escape tough injuries.

This situation is made even more complicated with the impending birth of Gordon Hayward’s first son. Hayward’s wife, Robyn, is expected to give birth in September. Hayward plans to leave the bubble to attend the birth of his son. If it happens to come after Hayward is cleared to return to basketball activities, it would represent very tricky timing, including the need to quarantine for at least four days upon his return. Of course, nothing is more important than the birth of his son, but this event will impact the team.

Behind the brilliance of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown last night, the Celtics were able to pull past the 76ers late despite the entire team not shooting or really performing well for large stretches at a time. If the Celtics needed brilliance from their two young wings last night, they’ll need it consistently for the next month.

After the team announced Hayward’s prognosis, Stevens said, “he’s bummed. He’s put in a lot of time and effort to be ready for this time of year. We’ve lived this before and we’re gonna have to have other people step up.” Boston shouldn’t have a tough time taking down the shorthanded 76ers as things stand now, but the second round just got much trickier as they likely will face the Toronto Raptors.

My personal bet as to who replaces Hayward in the starting lineup is Grant Williams. He defends well, matchups with what Philly’s trying to do starting Horford and Embiid together, has excellent defensive instincts, and his shooting stroke isn’t what it was to start the season. Yes, he’s a rookie, but because of the inexperience of the bench, it makes more sense to keep Marcus Smart to give the team a jolt as the team’s sixth man. Romeo Langford is dealing with his own injury issues, but if he can manage the pain, the team will need him at some point in the next month. He has to be ready.

For Hayward, the sprained ankle is just another devastating injury in a long line of bad luck. “Really tough for him and tough for us. He’s played great,” Stevens said. “I feel for him more than anything else. It’s our job to make up for all the great things he does by committee and we’ll attempt to do so.”

The Boston Celtics will take on the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals tomorrow at 6:30 PM EST. The Celtics lead the series 1-0.