The Celtics extended their winning streak to seven games Saturday night with a 135-115 win over the San Antonio Spurs, but Gordon Hayward unfortunately was bit by the injury bug.
Hayward suffered a fractured left hand in the second quarter after a collision with Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, causing him to exit the game and ultimately leading to the diagnosis. We don’t have a timeline at the moment, but the 29-year-old will see a specialist Monday to determine whether surgery is necessary or not, according to the team. Brad Stevens added that surgery could potentially help his timeline, but we’ll have more information come Monday.
There’s never a good time for any injury, but Hayward’s comes at a particularly inopportune time for the forward. Entering Saturday, Hayward was averaging 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists on 56.4 percent shooting. To say everything was clicking for the former All-Star would be an understatement.
A healthy Hayward gave Boston three players averaging over 20 points per game, something no other NBA team could say. But without him, what happens to the offense?
This injury certainly puts an accelerator on the Celtics’ need for Enes Kanter’s return. The center has missed seven consecutive games after injuring his left knee in the team’s season-opening loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Kanter averaged 13.7 points per game last season, and was expected to provide a punch off the bench for Boston upon returning to the floor. Now, he’ll be needed even more to help fill the scoring void during Hayward’s absence.
Javonte Green likely will see a boost in minutes while Hayward is sidelined as well. The versatile wing showcased his athleticism during Las Vegas Summer League, preseason action and Thursday against the Cavaliers. He scored 12 points in Cleveland, and posted another six in 13 minutes Saturday against the Spurs. Thanks to his consistent energy and ability to guard multiple positions along the perimeter, Green should see some additional playing time on the wing with Hayward on the shelf.
As a whole, Boston’s biggest weakness so far this season has been its depth. Entering Saturday, the Celtics ranked 30th bench scoring, but the perimeter starters (Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker) have been able to pace the offense regardless. That could change without Hayward at one of the wing spots, meaning the bench will need to step up its scoring.
Again, Kanter’s return will without a doubt help in that department, but Stevens will look for more consistency from guys like Carsen Edwards and Grant Williams from here on out until Hayward is re-inserted into the lineup. Any increase in bench scoring will make the transition to playing without Hayward much easier.
The starting lineup will likely depend on who Boston is playing from a size perspective, but look for Marcus Smart to come back into the fold, just like he did when Brown missed three straight games due to an infection. The Celtics didn’t skip a beat with Smart as part of the starting five in that scenario, and they’ll hope for much of the same this time round.
One question does remain: Will we see any Romeo Langford to help replace Hayward’s minutes? He’s currently on assignment with the G League’s Maine Red Claws, but time will tell if the lottery pick returns to Boston in the near future.
For now, though, the Celtics will look to keep rolling. They welcome Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks to TD Garden on Monday for a 7:30 p.m. ET tip-off.