While the Celtics may be getting closer to full strength in terms of personnel, finding peak performances from players returning from injury remains a work in progress for an important chunk of the roster. Kemba Walker delivered another dud on Tuesday night in his fourth game back from a sore knee, shooting below 40 percent from the field for his 10th straight game in a 3-of-12 performance that featured some costly misfires in the fourth quarter.
Elsewhere, Enes Kanter has not been the same player as he was in December and January despite being a month removed from a bruised hip, averaging just 3.7 ppg in the month of March while lacking the touch and lift that made him a valuable bench weapon in the first three months of the season.
With limited areas to turn for scoring production down the bench, particularly with Jaylen Brown out of the lineup, the Celtics would be truly on thin ice if Gordon Hayward returned from a bruised knee this week looking like a lesser version of himself.
The veteran swingman has been leaned on heavily by Brad Stevens in the past month, averaging 36.8 minutes per game in February, the highest total for any month in his career. The heavy minutes load combined with the grind of guarding bigger guys as a stretch four appeared to take a bit of a toll on Hayward at the end of February as Hayward scored 18 points or less in five straight games before suffering his knee injury against the Nets for the first time since November.
The limited production, despite the absence of Walker in the lineup, as well as the drop-off in other key areas