Gordon Hayward scored a combined 36 points in his previous five games (on 12-of-35 FG) before a season-high 35-point outburst against the Timberwolves on Wednesday night, and the timing of the performance couldn’t have been much better from a Celtics’ perspective.
Offense was going to be in high demand against the Timberwolves with Kyrie Irving sidelined and Al Horford limited to just 25 minutes of defense on Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns got his (28 points), Andrew Wiggins (32 points) played up to his offensive potential for one rare night but Hayward’s hot shooting (14-of-18 FG) was enough to carry Boston’s offense to a much-needed 115-102 win at the TD Garden.
Before Wednesday night, the concern level about Hayward had rightfully risen steadily over the past month as the 28-year-old had cracked double-digits in just four games during the month of December after posting a season-high 30 points against the Wolves back on December 1st.
The open shots have been there but the makes have been hard to string together as Hayward managed to shoot 37 percent from the field last month while managing just 10.4 ppg. On the whole, his production had taken a step back since November, a concerning situation for a team already underachieving in the win-loss column.
The Celtics expected they would have to carry Hayward through some re-adjustment pains during the early months of the season as he tries to regain his old form, but it's fair to say everyone thought the process would be a little further along by now, particularly after last month's 30-point binge.
We got a glimpse of that guy yet again on Wednesday night, but what can we honestly take out of a 35-point performance against a Wolves team that was without three of its top six rotation players (Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, Robert Covington)? Let’s take a closer look at Hayward’s performance to figure out what kind of progress there was against what was a pretty woeful defensive performance against an underachieving Western Conference squad.
Regressing to the mean with 3-point shooting