In the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers, Gordon Hayward left the game with a right ankle injury. It was later diagnosed as a right ankle sprain, but Hayward left the arena in crutches and with his foot in a boot. The good thing is it’s just an ankle sprain, and he should be back in a few weeks. It’s also important to note that it wasn’t his surgically repaired ankle that he injured.
The biggest issue with all of this is the shortened playoff schedule. Boston is playing a game every other day, so it’s not like they’ll be without Hayward for only a few games, depending on the severity of the injury. If his ankle sprain is worst-case-scenario, then he could miss second-round games if the Celtics make it that far.
The Celtics rotation was already pretty thin, and losing a 17+ PPG scorer definitely sucks. Marcus Smart will most likely slide into the starting lineup unless Brad Stevens decides to do something different and start Semi Ojeleye or Grant Williams. Weird, I know, but it wouldn’t shock me. Boston’s bench is weak enough as it is, so it might be smart to keep Smart coming off the bench.
Hayward’s injury means that players need to step up. Kemba Walker needs to score more. The bench needs to pick up some of the scoring responsibilities, as well. I’d ask Jayson and Jaylen to do more, but I know they’re going to step up like they always have.
Hayward’s injury doesn’t concern me to the point where I think Boston will lose in the first round because of his absence. I’m more concerned if he misses time heading into the next round. Toronto is going to be one of Boston’s biggest tests in the postseason, and they’ll need to be at full strength if they want to take them down quickly.
Without Hayward, this series will go the distance, and Toronto can make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. The series would be challenging even with Hayward, but if he’s healthy, I think Boston would defeat Toronto in six games. Even without Hayward, I think Boston can still make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but it will be a lot harder and exhausting for the team than it would have been with him.
All we can do now is be patient and wait for the results of Hayward’s MRI to come back. Until then, we’ll keep our fingers crossed in hopes that he’ll only miss a short amount of time. The Celtics need Gordon Hayward if they want to make a deep playoff run.
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