The Boston Celtics will be without starting small forward Gordon Hayward for at least four weeks, and they will need these three key players to step up.
As they walked off the court with a 109-101 Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night, the Boston Celtics awaited news on Gordon Hayward. Late in the fourth quarter, Hayward limped off the court after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury, later being ruled an ankle sprain, with the severity unknown.
Hayward did not return to the game and left the game in crutches and a walking boot, an unwelcome sign for Boston fans. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported early Tuesday that the forward’s MRI came back as a Grade 3 ankle sprain and that Hayward would miss the next four weeks of action, his recovery revolving around how the swelling and pain resides. The forward was already vocal about leaving the NBA’s bubble in mid-September for the birth of his fourth child, which means Boston could be without him for well beyond those four weeks.
Set to be without Hayward for a significant portion of their postseason run, potentially even the NBA Finals, if they made it, the Boston Celtics suffered a significant blow Monday night. Hayward’s injury does not derail Boston’s title aspirations entirely, but it certainly stings given how well they played at full strength.
Regardless, Hayward’s battles with injury are nothing new for Boston. This year alone, the 30-year-old missed 20 games, 13 straight after breaking his hand in early November. In those 13 games, the Celtics went 9-4 because of how well players on their roster embraced the next man up mentality.
With Hayward sidelined again, potentially for an extended period, they will have to adjust to playing without him once more. Here are three players that need to step up for them to do so.