MILWAUKEE — With the final two months of the Celtics season set to kick off on Thursday night in Milwaukee, there are plenty of intriguing subplots surrounding this squad in the wake of a disappointing start to the 2018-19 campaign. What should Celtics fans be watching for as the stakes are raised over the final 24 games of the regular season? Here’s a closer exploration of five storylines that will have a significant impact down the stretch for the team, both now and in the future.
1. Will Gordon Hayward continue to turn the corner?
It has been a rocky road for the swingman in his first season back from a gruesome broken ankle. He has been handed a steady diet of minutes even after losing his starting gig in November, despite the fact that on many nights he was not outperforming his teammates for that playing time. For months, his shooting accuracy has been lackluster, his timidness at the rim was alarming, and it was evident his foot speed and explosiveness on both ends of the floor weren’t close to 100 percent.
The Celtics, understandably, have been committed to Hayward’s recovery regardless. They have millions invested in him and know that in order for him to get back to his former self he needs reps. That process may have cost them a few wins in the early going, but it’s starting to pay off in the past few weeks. Hayward has been a consistent bright spot for Boston over the past 10 games, averaging an efficient 11.8 points per game in just 25 minutes a night. His field goal percentage (50 percent) and 3-point percentage (44 percent) have been great over that stretch, while his free-throw attempts (2.8 per game) have ticked up as well. Perhaps most importantly, the Celtics’ success with Hayward on the floor has been apparent (team-high in plus/minus) after an otherwise rough January in this department.
We’ve seen flashes