The Boston Celtics incurred a big hit in the injury department when they lost Gordon Hayward for up to four weeks with a severe ankle sprain.
With less than three minutes remaining in Game 1 of the playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Hayward limped off the court and sought medical attention. The Celtics held on to win 109-101.
Hayward, 30, averaged 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game this season. He started in 52 games.
After missing all but one game in the 2017-18 season with a fractured leg, Hayward recovered and appeared in 72 games last season, mostly as the sixth man.
DraftKings revised their NBA playoff series odds. Even without Hayward, the Celtics improved to -1000 odds to defeat the Sixers and advance to the Eastern Semifinals. Before the first game, the Celtics were only -400 odds to defeat the Sixers.
The Celtics are now 12/1 odds to win the NBA championship, according to a recent update by William Hill. After the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks lost Game 1 against the #8 Orlando Magic, the Eastern Conference looks more wide open than everyone initially thought.
Hayward Down, Celtics Rising
Hayward scored 12 points in 34 minutes in Game 1 before he suffered the ankle injury.
An MRI revealed that Hayward suffered a Grade 3 sprain. He could return in time for the NBA Finals, if the Celtics can make it that far.
“He’s bummed, as you can imagine,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “He put in a lot of time and effort, and you do so for this time, for the playoffs. We’ve lived this before and we’re going to have to have other people step up. That’s why you have a team.”
Marcus Smart will fill in for Hayward, while Grant Williams could see more playing time off the bench. The two only combined for two points off the bench in Game 1.
Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker will pick up the scoring slack for the hobbled Hayward until he returns from his injury. Tatum scored a career playoff-high of 32 points in the first game.
“It’s the playoffs, you’ve got to come together as a team,” said Tatum. “You’ve got to play hard. You ain’t going to be perfect. That’s what we did. We came together and stuck it out.”
Jaylen Brown stepped up in Game 1 with 29 points, an uptick from his 20.3 ppg average.
On Deck: Game 2 vs. Philly
The Sixers started this postseason without one of their primary stars, Ben Simmons. He underwent surgery after he blew out his knee in the restart. The Sixers needed him badly in Game 1 as they lacked a secondary scoring punch aside from Joel Embiid. The All-Star led the Sixers with 26 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.
“I’ve got to do more,” said Embiid. “Whatever the stats are, I’ve got to do more. I’ve got one job to do — carry us. I’m going to need my teammates to help me.”
The Sixers were knocked out of last year’s postseason by the Toronto Raptors in Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Semifinals. The Sixers were one lucky bounce away from advancing to a spot in the East Finals with the Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks. Then, Kawhi Leonard hit the now infamous buzzer-beater to win Game 7 and eliminate the Sixers.
Since that unfortunate moment, the Sixers have been trending downward in the Eastern Conference pecking order.
Without any semblance of a home-court advantage, the Sixers are a subpar team. The Sixers played like superheroes at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where they amassed a 31-4 record. However, the road was their proverbial kryptonite, where they went only 12-26. Inside the Disney bubble, the Sixers went 4-4 during the restart on a neutral court.
The Sixers come into Game 2 as the +5 underdog against the Celtics.