Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward went through a hard, individual workout on Monday and is progressing toward making his return to the court after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain against the Philadelphia 76ers last month.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens revealed that Hayward will return at some point during the series against the Heat, and on Monday said he wasn’t ready to rule out the 30-year-old for Game 1 on Tuesday.
“I haven’t talked to our medical staff about any of that,” Stevens said, according to Tom Westerholm of MassLive. “He didn’t go through our normal practice. … He looked good while he was going through it, but there’s a big difference between doing that and actually getting into a game. I don’t know what that officially means moving forward, but he’s getting better.”
Getting Hayward back certainly will be a boost for a Celtics lineup that struggled against the Toronto Raptors at times. Before being injured in Game 1 against the 76ers, Hayward notched 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in just over 34 minutes played.
Hayward had his best regular season this year since joining the Celtics, averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 50 % from the field and 38.3 % from beyond the arc.
With a Miami squad that has Jimmy Butler firing on all cylinders, it’ll be important that Hayward returns to the same player he was during the regular season.
Boston has won five of its last seven regular-season meetings against the Heat and two of three contests this season. However, the Celtics and Heat haven’t met in the playoffs since 2012, and Miami won that series in seven games to move on to the NBA Finals.
With both teams looking very different than they did in 2012, it’s sure to be a competitive series between the two Eastern Conference rivals.