Celtics finally see what they've been missing without Hayward


BOSTON -- Before Monday’s Christmas Day game against the Washington Wizards, Celtics Nation got the perfect gift (sort of) – Gordon Hayward, on the parquet floor on the eve of a big game.

Hayward, still on the mend from the dislocated left ankle injury he suffered in the season opener on Oct. 17, he was on the court thanking the fans for coming out on Christmas Day to support the team.

And then he left.

While Hayward and the Celtics had the best intentions in mind, it served as an all-too-painful reminder of what Boston lacked due to his injury, a player whose presence was going to being a dynamic addition that was going to make them easily the biggest threat to Cleveland’s reign in the East.


Seeing Hayward was a reminder of how valiant this team has been without him, of how they have gone into battle most nights and emerged victorious without one of their best, one of their most talented weapons available.

It speaks to the Celtics' effort, fortitude and overall toughness to mentally fight through a major setback such as losing Hayward from the outset of the season, and bounce back to the point where they are now a team that’s among the game’s elite this season.

But the effort exerted by Boston players trying to make up for what Hayward would have brought to the game while also doing their jobs, you know over time it’s going to take its toll on the players both physically and mentally.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, that time is now.

This is not the same team that reeled off 16 straight wins with many of the double-digit, come-from-behind variety.

The numbers bear this out, obviously.

Teams are scoring more points, Boston is getting less rebounds, turnovers are on the rise and the bottom line – winning games – isn’t as abundant any more.

Since winning 16 straight improved their record to 16-2, the Celtics have been 11-8 since.

Throw in the fact that Boston has been the pace-setter most of this season when it comes to the most games played in the NBA (they have a league-leading 37 under their belt now), and you have a recipe for what’s before our eyes now – a good team that’s reeling.

Knowing that Hayward’s return this season is still very much a long shot, the Celtics have no choice but to hold on for dear life and weather these stormy times with the knowledge that things will get better.

And remember, this is a team that’s still learning how to play well with one another.

That 16-game winning streak gave the allusion that the team’s chemistry at both ends of the floor, was greater than it really was.

And the reality of where they are, is coming back to earth these days.

Balancing a taxing schedule with the pressure that comes with playing with a target on their backs most of this season, along with doing so with one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, is asking a lot of any team let alone one without one of their top players who was slated to have a prominent role at both ends of the floor.

For Boston’s rebuild from 2013 to take that one last quantum leap forward, Hayward had to be in the mix.

On Christmas for one brief moment, Hayward was on the parquet floor, giving fans something to cheer about.

And then he left, reminding us all of what this team could be, and who they really are – a good team that has valiantly fought to be a contender in the East, something that won’t change with or without Hayward.


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