The Charlotte Hornets have lost another star player to injury after Gordon Hayward was ruled out for four weeks with a foot sprain.

Although the Hornets are going strong in the East, sitting fourth with a 25-23 record, they have been without leading Rookie of the Year contender LaMelo Ball for the past seven games.

Ball, the brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo, was averaging 15.9, 6.1 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals in his debut NBA season before he fractured his wrist.

The third overall pick faces a race to return this season, although a postseason run would boost his chances.

Charlotte's playoff hopes have now been hit further, however, with Hayward's setback confirmed following Friday's win over the Indiana Pacers.

"He will be reevaluated in approximately four weeks and further updates on his status will be provided as appropriate," a statement read on Saturday.

With Hayward tallying 19.6 points per game this season, it means the Hornets are missing their second- and third-highest scorers.

Terry Rozier leads the way on an average of 20.3 points, although Miles Bridges was Charlotte's top performer against the Pacers with 23 points off the bench in a dominant 114-97 success.

For Hayward, this is just the latest in a series of injury frustrations.

Having earned an All-Star selection with the Utah Jazz, the forward signed with the Boston Celtics in free agency in 2017.

But Hayward played just once in his first season in Boston due to a fractured ankle sustained five minutes into his debut.

He was then beset by a number of minor issues in his second year as a Celtic, averaging just 11.5 points as he played 72 games but started only 18.

The 2019-20 campaign brought a return to form, despite Hayward fracturing his hand, but a sprained ankle at the start of the playoffs limited him to five postseason games, scoring 10.8 points per game after 17.5 in the regular season.

Hayward's sorry stay with the Celtics came to an end ahead of the current season when he moved to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade.

This has not been a fun season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who remain at the foot of the Western Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell have both missed extended periods and the team have a miserable 10-32 record, the worst in the entire NBA.

But three of those wins have come since the All-Star break, a period in which the T-Wolves are actually operating at .500.

They were 1-2 over the past week but faced a daunting schedule and appear to belatedly have some cause for optimism.

Rookie Anthony Edwards is finally cooking and leads our NBA Heat Check for March 15-21, powered by Stats Perform data.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns

If this young Minnesota team is to develop into a competitive NBA outfit, they need to have both guard Edwards and center Towns fit and firing. That was belatedly the case last week.

Edwards, the first overall pick in the 2020 draft, hinted at what was to come at the end of the previous week when he put up 34 points in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers, a career-best tally at that stage.

The benchmark was swiftly raised higher, though, as he followed up 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers with 42 in a victory at the Phoenix Suns. That was a new T-Wolves rookie record and made Edwards the third-youngest NBA player ever to put up 40 points, after LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The 19-year-old was not alone in passing 40 either, with Towns contributing 41 in only the second ever Minnesota game to feature two 40-point performances.

Towns' weekly average of 31.3 points - up on his prior seasonal tally of 21.8 - provided a timely reminder of his talents, while Edwards - up from 15.6 to 27.3 - will hope he has set a new standard with Rookie of the Year honours perhaps now in his sights, the race blown open by LaMelo Ball's injury.

Luka Doncic

The ROTY chase followed the same trend as the MVP hunt, with Joel Embiid and LeBron James both facing spells on the sidelines and encouraging other contenders. Doncic is not among the frontrunners quite yet, but do not bet against the Dallas Mavericks sensation.

Doncic headed into last week having missed two of the Mavs' prior four games, scoring 22 and 21 points in two wins when he did feature. By the Slovenian's lofty standards, this was a lean spell.

The 22-year-old point guard was soon back to his best, though. He averaged 35.5 points across the subsequent four games, with 42 against the Los Angeles Clippers a clear high point.

Doncic made 5.5 threes per game from 11.5 attempts for 47.8 per cent, a mark that would across the whole season rank him fourth in the league.

Joe Ingles

One of the three players with a better three-point percentage is Utah Jazz forward Ingles, who is shooting 49 per cent from beyond the arc after a week in which that figure was boosted considerably.

Having made 2.4 threes across his first 34 games of the season, Ingles converted an outstanding 5.7 over the next three.

His weekly points per game return was a hugely impressive 22.3 - up 11 on his prior average - after a career-high 34 points against the Washington Wizards, the only game the Jazz have lost this season with Ingles in the lineup.
 

GOING COLD...

Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk

Ball's injury brought a miserable end to a tough week for the Charlotte Hornets, in which they started with a win over the Sacramento Kings before losing three straight.

And Ball will be an even bigger miss than already feared if Hayward and Monk perform as they did over those four games.

Hayward started strongly but scored seven on back-to-back nights and averaged 14 points for the week, while Monk saw his minutes cut and contributed just six points per game - including none at the Lakers - as he made only two of nine threes.

Stephen Curry

Curry is another who might not be a million miles away from the MVP race, but he is trending in the wrong direction.

The Golden State Warriors great has had 62- and 57-point games this season, yet his average for the year is down to 29 after scoring 22.5 per game in meetings with the Lakers and the Houston Rockets last week.

Curry, who made six of 18 threes, then missed consecutive games with a tailbone injury.

While a slight decline in scoring is not a huge concern for the Warriors, they certainly need their main man healthy.

Trae Young

The Atlanta Hawks are enjoying a superb eight-game winning streak, but their leading scorer actually endured a tougher week shooting the basketball.

With 34 assists across three games, Young averaged a double-double, yet he scored only 16.7 points and made 0.5 threes per game. His 9.7 points per game decline on his seasonal tally was the second-worst of the week across the NBA.

Fortunately, Danilo Gallinari and John Collins stepped up, so the Hawks will now hope they can get all their stars firing at once.

An intriguing NBA season continued to take shape last week with more shock results in the East.

The Philadelphia 76ers are at the summit as the teams below them trade wins in a far more balanced conference than the Los Angeles-led West.

Therefore, the big increases and decreases in production across the NBA were centred on the East, including big displays from one Sixers star while another tailed off.

We take a look at the best and worst performers of the week with the help of Stats Perform data.

 

RUNNING HOT...

Joel Embiid

Knee and back issues, along with the Philadelphia 76ers' coronavirus crisis, have impacted Embiid's time on the floor already this season, but he is now moving through the gears. The center had scored 45 points against the Miami Heat on January 12, only to then contribute just nine against the same team two days later. But there since looks to be consistency to Embiid's play as he tallied 42, 38 and 33 points in three Sixers wins last week, recording a double-double on each occasion. This weekly average of 37.7 improved the 26-year-old's season scoring from 25.0 points per game to 27.7 and appeared to lift the big man into the early MVP conversation.

Gordon Hayward

Staying fit is always likely to be the key for Hayward, given his awful injury record. He has played in 15 of the Charlotte Hornets' 16 games so far, though, and is averaging a career-high 24.1 points for the season. That mark was boosted from 22.2 points per game over the past week as Hayward turned in a pair of big performances against the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic. His 34 points in the first game were not enough for a win, but 39 points at Orlando, along with nine rebounds, helped lift the Hornets to a competitive 7-9. Hayward's big contract has been justified to this point.

Clint Capela

The Atlanta Hawks recovered to a .500 record last week and Capela had a huge impact on both ends of the floor. The former Houston Rockets center averaged 21.0 points across three Hawks wins before sitting out the defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, but scoring is just one facet of his game; Capela also contributed 20.0 rebounds per game - the biggest increase on a seasonal average across the whole league. Perhaps most notable of all, though, was the 10-block triple-double that saw Atlanta past the Minnesota Timberwolves. His 2.3 blocks per game rank third in the NBA.

Kendrick Nunn

COVID-19 protocol kept Nunn on the sidelines for a stretch earlier this month, but the second-year point guard is back in the groove - even if the Miami Heat are still struggling to rediscover their playoff form from last season. Nunn started all 67 of his regular season appearances in 2019-20, only to lose his place in the starting five for the run to the NBA Finals. He is being utilised from the bench again this year but provided a huge scoring boost last week. The 25-year-old averaged 21.5 points across the Heat's four games, his increase of 16.0 from his prior mark of 5.5 per game the biggest such improvement in the league.

GOING COLD...

Terry Rozier

While Hayward stepped up in Charlotte, it was not a vintage week for team-mate Rozier. With 42-point and 35-point games to his name this season, the former Boston Celtics point guard was way off the pace in averaging 8.5 points across two games in which he played 38 minutes on both occasions. That knocked Rozier's season average down from 19.9 to 18.5, with a clear decline in his three-point shooting the obvious cause for concern. He shot 2-of-12 from beyond the arc, making 1.0 threes per game, down from 3.4.

Andre Drummond

The Cleveland Cavaliers stole the show last week with a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in their double-header, but Drummond did not match the standard he had set previously in a monster game against the New York Knicks. Drummond had season-highs of 33 points and 23 rebounds as the Knicks visited Cleveland, yet he then fell short of a double-double for the first time all year in the first Nets game. Sunday's trip to the Celtics then saw Drummond play just 18 minutes, scoring a meagre 11 points, and he finished the week with 9.3 rebounds per game - solid enough but well down on his prior average of 15.8.

Tyrese Maxey

The Sixers' COVID-19 issues might have slowed the team's early momentum, but rookie Maxey was flying heading into last week. Outstanding with 39 points in a seven-man rotation against the Denver Nuggets on January 9, the 20-year-old kept his place and was averaging 11.4 points per game prior to Wednesday's meeting with Boston. But Maxey did not score a single point in that win and duly lost his place for the second Celtics matchup. He finished the week with just four points from three games, shooting 2-of-9 from the field.

LaMelo Ball

Rookie seasons tend to be rollercoaster affairs and Ball is certainly finding that. He is yet to start for the Hornets this season but was steadily contributing double-figures at the turn of the year, including an outstanding triple-double against Atlanta on January 9. Last week, Ball averaged just 9.0 points and 3.0 rebounds across Charlotte's two games, although he did contribute eight assists in the win over the Magic.

Gordon Hayward suffered an avulsion fracture on a finger on his shooting hand early in his career with the Charlotte Hornets.

The former Boston Celtics forward sustained the problem in Monday's 112-109 preseason loss to the Toronto Raptors, his second appearance for Charlotte.

Hayward only joined Michael Jordan's Hornets on a four-year sign-and-trade $120million deal on November 29.

The Hornets are hopeful Hayward can avoid surgery and are listing the 2017 NBA All-Star as day-to-day going forward, though he will not face the Orlando Magic on Thursday.

"Forward Gordon Hayward sustained an avulsion fracture of his fifth metacarpal on his right hand during the team's preseason game against the Toronto Raptors on December 14," read a statement from the Hornets on Wednesday.

Hayward suffered a gruesome foot and ankle injury on his Celtics debut in 2017, ruling him out for the whole season.

He has struggled with other injuries since then, missing 142 total games in his three years with the Celtics.

Hayward was effective when on the court in his final season in Boston, though, averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the 52 games he played.

Hayward helped the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals before opting to move to Jordan's team in Charlotte, who start the new NBA season against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 23.

Gordon Hayward said Michael Jordan's recruitment helped in swapping the Boston Celtics for the Charlotte Hornets.

The Hornets acquired unrestricted free agent Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics last month, the deal reportedly a four-year, $120million contract in Charlotte.

Hayward was close to joining the Hornets previously, having signed a four-year, $63m deal in 2014 but it was eventually matched by the Utah Jazz.

Fronting the media on Tuesday, 2017 All-Star Hayward highlighted the impact of Hornets owner and NBA great Jordan.

"I think I did a videoconference with him on that visit [in 2014] and any time you talk to Michael Jordan, there's a little bit of that star-struck [feeling]," Hayward told reporters on Tuesday.

"I remember watching him growing up. I think I asked him back then if Reggie [Miller] fouled him when he pushed off and hit the shot against them [in the 1998 Eastern Conference finals] when Reggie was on the Pacers in the playoffs there.

"[Jordan's] one of the greatest players to ever play if not the greatest to ever play, so I think everyone feels that a little bit. I never forgot that and so this second go-around he actually mentioned it as well when I talked and then when he had texted me a little bit that he's wanted me for years now.

"I think it was something where the more conversations that we had, that I had with the coaching staff, with some of the front office guys ... although there were conversations with lots of teams for sign-and-trade opportunities, it was one of those things where my agent was kind of working on those and I kind of just told him let's do this thing in Charlotte, let's get this thing done."

"I never forgot the commitment and the potential I think that Michael and the organisation saw in me years ago," Hayward said. "When they gave me an offer sheet and I had signed that to come here back then and then ultimately that got matched. And so for sure that was always one thing that was in the back of my mind."

Hayward left the Jazz for the Celtics on a four-year max contract via free agency in 2017, but he endured a difficult time in Boston.

The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hayward suffered a gruesome fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his first game for the Celtics three years ago.

Hayward struggled to recapture his best form the following season, and the 30-year-old sustained a broken bone in his hand in November before suffering a sprained right ankle during Boston's sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of last season's playoffs in Orlando.

Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for the Celtics last season, having averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 2018-19.

Since entering the league, Hayward is averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

"Tough decisions were certainly made," Hayward said. "There's no ill will on my end from anybody within the Boston organisation, the players. I had an unbelievable time in Boston and I think that it's unfortunate what happened; I obviously had a freak injury right when I got there. And there's a lot of things that were kind of out of my control of when I was in Boston.

"But I had a great time there and still have great relationships with the people there and some of the players there. And my team-mates and coaches and my wife and I had built relationships with members of the community that we live in and to this day we talk to them ... there's no ill will on my end and I really loved my time in Boston.

"Certainly couldn't be more excited about where I'm at now. And looking forward to this next chapter."

The Charlotte Hornets completed the acquisition of Gordon Hayward in a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics, it was announced on Sunday.

Hayward – an unrestricted free agent – moves to the Hornets along with a 2023 and 2024 second-round NBA Draft pick in exchange for a protected 2022 second-round selection.

While terms of the contract were not disclosed, Hayward has reportedly signed a four-year, $120million deal in Charlotte.

Hayward was due to earn $34.2m with the Celtics in 2020-21, but the 2017 All-Star opted to leave Boston after three years.

"We are thrilled to welcome Gordon and his family to the Hornets organisation and Charlotte," said Hornets president of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak.

"Gordon is an NBA All-Star, a proven scorer and playmaker and a tough competitor that will fit well into the needs of our team.

"We believe that his basketball talent, NBA experience and veteran leadership will make a positive impact on our young, talented team as it continues to develop."

Hayward left the Utah Jazz for the Celtics on a four-year max contract via free agency in 2017, but he endured a difficult time in Boston.

The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hayward suffered a gruesome fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his first game for the Celtics three years ago.

Hayward struggled to recapture his best form the following season, and the 30-year-old sustained a broken bone in his hand in November before suffering a sprained right ankle during Boston's sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of last season's playoffs in Orlando.

He did not return until midway through the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.

Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for the Celtics last season, having averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 2018-19.

Since entering the league, Hayward is averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Gordon Hayward has ended his three-year tenure with the Boston Celtics and signed a $120million contract with the Charlotte Hornets, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday.

The move ends a strange and disappointing chapter for the Celtics and ushers in new hope for a Charlotte organisation that has not won a playoff series since 2002.

Hornets management is hoping Hayward - who has agreed to a four-year deal - can bring star power and veteran leadership to guide young talents Devonte' Graham, Miles Bridges and Malik Monk – as well as No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball – out of a streak of four straight losing seasons.

As a restricted free agent in 2014, Hayward signed an offer sheet with the Hornets, but the Utah Jazz matched the offer and kept Hayward for three more seasons.

Charlotte will need to shed a little salary in order to fit Hayward's new contract under the cap, so the transaction could transform into a sign-and-trade move.

Hayward's run with Boston began with a broken ankle in his first game. While he gradually recovered to score 17.5 points per game last season, the 30-year-old was rumoured to be looking for a new team and turned down a $34.2m option to stay with the Celtics, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Taking another coveted piece off the board, the Toronto Raptors will keep point guard Fred VanVleet on the roster for the next four seasons.

VanVleet, who went undrafted out of Wichita State, re-signed with the Raptors for four years and $85 million on Saturday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

A playoff hero in Toronto's 2019 title run, VanVleet assumed a larger offensive role last season, starting 54 games and averaging career highs with 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game.

The news comes one day after the Canadian government denied the Raptors' appeal of national travel restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, forcing the team to play home games – at least to start the season – in Tampa, Florida.

The Raptors will likely now turn their attention to their frontcourt, where Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol are unrestricted free agents.

Gasol has been expected to move elsewhere, while Ibaka has been linked to joining Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the Brooklyn Nets.

With the Los Angeles Lakers' Anthony Davis and New Orleans Pelicans' Brandon Ingram are expected to re-sign with their teams, perhaps the top available player is now restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic, who averaged 15.1 points per game with the Sacramento Kings last season.

Boston Celtics star Gordon Hayward has reportedly opted out of his contract and is set to enter NBA free agency.

Hayward was due to earn $34.2million in 2020-21, but the Celtics forward is now set to become one of the top players on the free agent market, according to ESPN.

The 2017 All-Star could still re-sign with the Celtics on a long-term deal, though the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks have significant cap space to lure Hayward.

Hayward left the Utah Jazz for the Celtics on a four-year max contract via free agency in 2017, but he has endured a difficult time in Boston.

The ninth pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hayward suffered a gruesome fractured tibia and dislocated ankle in his first game for the Celtics three years ago.

Hayward struggled to recapture his best form the following season, and the 30-year-old sustained a broken bone in his hand in November before suffering a sprained right ankle during Boston's sweep of the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening round of last season's playoffs in Orlando.

He did not return until midway through the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat.

Hayward averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game for the Celtics last season, having averaged 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 2018-19.

Since entering the league, Hayward is averaging 15.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Jayson Tatum insists things are "normal" in the Boston Celtics locker room after the team recorded a pivotal Game 3 win over the Miami Heat.

Having lost second-half leads of 14 and 15 points respectively in the opening two games of the Eastern Conference finals, reports about heated disagreements between players were rife.

Coach Brad Stevens reportedly held a late-night meeting with leading Celtics players to discuss any grievances and Game 3 saw his team get back into the playoff series with a 117-106 triumph in Orlando.

With the series close again at 2-1, Tatum – who thrived with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists on Saturday – felt debate over their locker room had been overblown.

"It's been normal," he said, per ESPN. "Anybody that's played sports, played in a team game, we're not supposed to be happy being down 0-2. If you are, then you don't care. We care about this.

"Basketball is a game of emotions. So we want guys to be frustrated, be upset, to care. 

"It's nothing personal. We just have to figure some things out. It's nothing more than that.

"You're supposed to talk it out, figure it out and come together for the next game. Leave what happened in the past in the past because you can't change it."

Gordon Hayward returned after a month out with an ankle injury, registering six points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block in 31 minutes.

Discussing his return, Tatum added: "It meant everything.

"Obviously, we played a while without him. And I've said it before: crazy that anyone would think we're better without him. 

"We're so much better when he's out there and so much more dynamic, so much more versatile when he's out there.

"It felt great to have the full team back. He played great in his first game, and he's going to continue to get better, get his feel back. So to have him back is everything."

Four Celtics players topped 20 points, with Jaylen Brown, who echoed Tatum's comments on team cohesion, leading the way with 26, plus seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

"There's some great guys in that locker room," said Brown. 

"A lot of emotion, a lot of passion, but we're a family and we're here for each other at the end of the day. We exemplified that when we came out together. We stayed together during some tough moments.

"But we didn't hang our head. We kept our will high and persevered to win this game."

Kemba Walker (21 points) and Marcus Smart (20 points) also had productive outings and the teams will now rest during a brief break in this series until Game 4 on Wednesday.

The Boston Celtics responded in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat with a 117-106 win in Game 3 on Saturday.

Trailing 2-0 after giving up big leads in the opening two games, the Celtics bounced back at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum led the way with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, plus eight assists, as Boston reduced Miami's series lead to 2-1.

Jaylen Brown finished with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, while Kemba Walker contributed 21 points and Marcus Smart poured in 20.

In another boost for Boston, Gordon Hayward made his return from an ankle injury in his first appearance since August 17.

He contributed six points in more than 30 minutes off the bench.

Bam Adebayo again starred for Miami with 27 points and 16 rebounds, while Tyler Herro impressed off the bench with 22 points.

But Miami never led in Game 3 and were unable to produce another comeback after trailing by 13 points at half-time.

Boston pushed out to a 20-point lead during the fourth quarter before Miami rallied, but the Heat fell short.

 

Nuggets face Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers will look to go 2-0 up in the Western Conference finals when they take on the Denver Nuggets again on Sunday.

The Boston Celtics have been dealt a blow in the NBA playoffs following confirmation of an ankle sprain that will sideline Gordon Hayward for four weeks.

Hayward hurt his ankle during Boston's 109-101 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series at Walt Disney World Resort on Monday.

The 2017 All-Star, who posted 12 points against the 76ers, twisted his right ankle as he tried to box out Joel Embiid with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Now, Hayward is set for an extended stint on the sidelines in Orlando, Florida, after being diagnosed with a grade three ankle sprain.

"I think we can certainly do a lot here but all that is stuff is to be determined," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said on Tuesday as he discussed how Boston would adjust in the forward's absence. "We haven't gotten into that stuff or that conversation."

"He's bummed, as you can imagine," Stevens said. "[He's] put in a lot of time and effort, and you do so for this time, for the playoffs. That's what we all look forward to, and we've been really lucky thus far in the bubble to have good health and, of course, [after] Game 1 we don't.

"But that's part of it. We've lived this before and we're going to have to have other people step up. That's why you have a team."

Hayward, who suffered a gruesome leg injury in 2017, has been averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Celtics this season.

Game 2 between the Celtics and 76ers will take place on Wednesday.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is to undergo an MRI scan on an ankle injury suffered in the closing stages of his team's win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Hayward had 12 points as the Celtics triumphed 109-101 in Game 1 of their first-round series in the NBA playoffs.

He twisted his right ankle - fortunately not the same one he suffered a gruesome injury on back in 2017 - as he tried to box out Sixers center Joel Embiid with just over three minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

As a result, Hayward will undergo a scan to ascertain the severity of the problem.

"Sprained ankle," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Don't know the severity, but he's clearly in pain.

"It looked like it had some swelling already. That is my medical review."

Marcus Smart would be expected to replace Hayward in the starting line-up if he has to miss any time.

Jayson Tatum had 32 points and 13 rebounds – both career playoff highs - for the victorious Celtics, with Jaylen Brown adding 29 in the NBA bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

"We came out and we battled," said Brown, whose team overcame a Sixers side playing without the injured Ben Simmons.

"We were the more physical team and we came out on top. I was proud of us. We've got to keep that fight up if we want to win this series.

"Who wants it the most? Who wants to fight? That is what it comes down to.

"Experience is everything. That's the best teacher. I've been lucky enough to go to two Eastern Conference finals, so I feel like I bring a lot of experience. 

"[Tatum] also has been to a conference finals, so continue to feed that to our young guys and play like you've been here before."

Game 2 will take place on Wednesday.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said he will exit the NBA's bubble in Florida for the birth of his next child if his team is still playing at that stage of the league's revised season. 

Hayward's wife is due to give birth to the couple's fourth child in September. The NBA's current plans for its restart have the Eastern Conference semi-finals beginning no later than August 30 and the conference finals starting by September 15. 

At the time of the NBA's stoppage on March 11 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Boston occupied the third seed in the East, three games behind the first-place Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division.  

"There'll be a time if and when we're down [in Orlando] and she's going to have the baby, I'm for sure going to be with her," Hayward said of his wife, Robyn. "We'll have to cross that bridge when we get there." 

The NBA has put in stipulations for players who have received permission to leave the Walt Disney World Resort complex. If a player is gone for less than seven days and continues to test negatively for COVID-19, he would be required to quarantine for four days after returning. 

"I know the NBA has a protocol for that type of thing, and hopefully I can do the quarantining and testing the appropriate amount of time and then be back with the boys," he said.  

Hayward was in the midst of his best season with the Celtics at the time of the league's shutdown. The former Utah Jazz star is averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 39.2 percent from three-point range in 2019-20.  

The 30-year-old added that the time off has been beneficial for him physically, but admitted that he still deals with occasional pain in his left foot. Hayward fractured his left ankle in the 2017-18 season opener, his first game as a Celtic after leaving the Jazz to sign a four-year max contract. 

"Everything is definitely a lot better. There is no doubt about that," said Hayward. "For sure, I'm feeling great, it's just the foot still is a little sore. It is what it is." 

 

Gordon Hayward praised the Boston Celtics for bouncing back against the Charlotte Hornets as he hailed "stop sign" Enes Kanter.

The Celtics rebounded from their loss to the Toronto Raptors by easing past the Hornets 109-92 in the NBA on Tuesday.

Hayward, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the win, said defensive improvement was key for the Celtics.

"It was a good bounce-back win for us," he told a news conference.

"I think we tightened it up defensively – I think that was the big key we were trying to focus on after some slippage. I think that was the biggest deal for us."

While Hayward, Kemba Walker (22 points) and Jayson Tatum (24) again starred, Kanter delivered off the bench.

Kanter finished with 13 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high six blocks as the Celtics improved to 23-8.

"I didn't realise it was six blocks. That's pretty big time," Hayward said.

"He's been telling people he's a stop sign. I hope that he's going to continue to be a stop sign for us. We need him on that end."

The Celtics host the struggling Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward is set to miss six weeks after undergoing surgery on his left hand.

Hayward, 29, fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand during the Celtics' 135-115 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

The Celtics confirmed the surgery on Monday and are set to be without Hayward until late December.

"Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward underwent successful surgery today to repair a fourth metacarpal fracture in his left hand," a Celtics statement read.

"The injury occurred during Saturday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs.

"He is expected to return to play in approximately six weeks."

Hayward is averaging 18.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Celtics this season.

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