ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier today that there was “significant optimism” that Gordon Hayward would return tonight for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. With an hour before tip off, all signs remain positive:
Brad Stevens is taking a “we’ll see” approach as the Hayward and the Celtics begin to warm up pre-game and ultimately, it’s Gordon’s decision on whether or not he’ll play. With the Celtics down 0-2, his return couldn’t come sooner. In two regular games against the Heat, he’s averaged 22 points on 55.6% shooting and could be the key to unlocking Miami’s 2-3 zone that has been frustrating Boston at times.
Hayward has been out since August 17th suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain in Game 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers. According to Stevens, Hayward has looked good in live 3-on-3, but coming in cold into the NBA Playoffs is worlds away from practice drills. Stevens expects Hayward to come off the bench and his minutes will be monitored after missing over a month. “We don’t expect him to be a world beater,” Stevens said, “but we think his presence helps us.”
Gordon Hayward is warming up on the court ahead of Game 3.— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) September 19, 2020
According to reports, Hayward is AVAILABLE to play tonight off the bench after missing the last month with an ankle injury. pic.twitter.com/d9YCyGIamX
UPDATE: Per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Hayward is available off the bench.