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Boston Celtics

Is Gordon Hayward back? Hayward ties career-high 39 points in Celtics 119-113 win over Cavaliers

Gordon Hayward hit his first nine shots on Tuesday night in Cleveland. He became the first player in the NBA this season to score at least 20 points on 100% shooting in a single half according to Celtics Stats.

His first miss came early in the second half but that didn't stop his hot streak as he powered the Celtics with a career-high-tying 39 points en route to Boston's 119-113 win over the Cavaliers.

"He was aggressive going to the basket," head coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward's performance. "He just kept making the right play over and over."

The Gordon Hayward of old was on display at the place where he lost his superpowers. Hayward's 2017-18 season came to a screeching halt in game one when he dislocated his left ankle and fractured his tibia. After sitting out of all his first year with Boston, Hayward returned to the lineup a season ago but never truly got back to the All-Star form that led Danny Ainge and the Celtics to sign him to a four-year $128 million dollar deal.

Six games into the 2019-20 season and two years removed from the gruesome injury that cost him a season in his prime Hayward seems to be finding his groove again.

Prior to Tuesday's night win over the Cavs, Hayward was averaging 16.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists shooting 47.7% from the field and a whopping 55.6% from three through the first five games of the season. While his numbers are still shy of his All-Star production, watching him play it was clear that his swagger was back. On Tuesday night it was on full display.

With Tuesday's performance, Hayward has now scored at least 20 points three times this season - already halfway to his total of 20-point games all of last year.

Getting back in the starting lineup has certainly boosted his confidence. Last season Hayward spent the majority of the time pretending to be the team's sixth man, a role he clearly didn't take well too. Now he's back to starting amongst the wing heavy rotation of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown - when he's healthy - and it hasn't seemed to slow down. In fact, Hayward is getting his opportunities. His usage percentage coming into Tuesday is up to 20.3% and he's averaging 13.0 field goal attempts per game - up from just 8.8 a season ago.

If there's one gripe Celtics fans can have with Hayward is that he simply isn't getting to the line like he once did. At the peak of his powers in Utah, Hayward was getting to the line around six times per game. Now in Boston that's down to 2.8 free throws per game this season. That, however, is a small price to pay if Hayward can continue to play as well as he has to start the year.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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