Gordon Haywards last playoff game was on May 8, 2017. He had 25 points on 8-for-21 shooting for Utah in a series-sweeping loss to Golden State in game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
From free agency to catastrophic injury to this seasons arduous comeback, its been a long time in between playoff appearances for the Celtics forward.
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What an atmosphere, man, he said after the Celtics 84-74 Game 1 win over Indiana Sunday. It was fun out there. To be out there with my teammates is a very good feeling. … Havent been in a playoff game in a while, and also it was an early game, so your routine changes a little bit. But couldnt have been happier to be out there on the court with my teammates, wearing the Celtics colors and playing in front of the fans. It was a lot of fun.
Hayward continued his role as primary playmaker on the second unit with a 10-point, four-assist, seven-rebound performance. Like his teammates, the Celtics forward good off to a slow start.
I dont know about rust – I think probably a little anxious for sure, he said of the general team vibe in a slow first half. I mean its the first playoff game, so we were definitely a little anxious. But credit them, they played really tough defensively. Didnt really get many easy shots for us. Everything was difficult. They had a good game plan.
He has played himself back to the Hayward we know, said Pacers coach Nate McMillan. His stroke is back, he’s making good decisions, and it looks like he’s playing with a lot more confidence.
The crowd was surprised by an unexpected sight – a surprised Larry Bird on the Jumbotron. The Celtics legend, now a consultant for the Pacers, was sitting in the stands next to Indiana general manager Kevin Pritchard when the camera turned on him.
After unsuccessfully trying to blend back into his seat, Bird smiled, stood up, waved, and triggered a familiar Larry chant that hasnt been heard in the Garden for quite some time.
Aron Baynes howled in pain during a second half collision with Thaddeus Young that sent the Celtics center momentarily to the bench. But after the training staff attended to his left leg, Baynes returned to the floor.
I looked like I was in pain? That’s alright. Looks can be deceiving, said Baynes. For sure, I must have been breathing harder than normal. I might have been a little bit emotional. That’s all. One of those things. It’s all good. At the end of the day, our emotion runs a little bit high. I’m fine and ready to get back out there.
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Speaking of emotions, Kyrie Irving had to play the peacemaker after an angry Jaylen Brown was whistled for a technical foul after pushing Indianas Bojan Bogdanovic with 3:20 left in the game.
Im like, Were in a long series with these guys, like… emotions can get the best of you, but once you settle in, you let all of that go and then its time to move on to the next thing, Irving said of his advice to Brown. Guys are getting pushed, guys are getting fouled. We understand the magnitude of the moment and you cant let the moment get too big for you, no matter if – I hate to say this, but if someone pushes you down, but its like youve got to get them back somehow, some way on another end or another game and just save it and really perform at that next level.
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Thats the maturity of this league, he said. We all have instances where were challenged and things dont go our way, and its how you respond, and thats the most important thing. So, JB had the right to do what he did, but after that, they shoot a technical and I just think about the circumstances if they were different – it was a four-point game, if it was a three-point game – and that stuff happens then it could change the whole momentum of a game. Instead of being up five comfortably with five minutes left to go in the game, now youre up four. Just anything can happen, so in that moment I was just like, JB, youre good, we understand your frustration, but now its just time to move on to the next thing. Thats always going to be my advice for everything throughout these series. Its like anything can happen, anything can impact the game, you never know. So, just control what you can control and just go out there and perform.
Video: Kyrie, Celtics battle back to claim Game 1 vs. Pacers | NBA Highlights
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The Boston Celtics have been at their best this season when they are forcing turnovers, spacing the floor and knocking down outside shots.
They found out in their win at home against the Pacers that they were equipped to win an ugly, physical game as well.
Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points, and the Celtics rallied in the second half to beat the Indiana Pacers, 84-74, on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points for fourth-seeded Boston, and Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last years postseason with injuries.
I just try to be aggressive on the ball, be in the right spots, Irving said. I just really want to be aggressive and really be the head of the snake.
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The fifth-seeded Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just 8 in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. Indiana finished with a season-worst 29 points in the second half.
Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers, and Bojan Bogdanovic was their lone starter in double figures with 12 points.
Both teams shot worse than 40 percent from the field. Boston hit just 36 percent (28 of 77) and had 20 turnovers. Indiana connected on 33 percent of its shots (28 of 84) and turned the ball over 13 times.
The Celtics 84 points were their fewest of the season; it was the first time Boston scored fewer than 100 points and won.
We held them to 84 points, Indianas Wesley Matthews said. We just didnt score enough.
BUCKS 121, PISTONS 86 Giannis Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, and top-seeded Milwaukee routed eighth-seeded Detroit in their East opener.
Antetokounmpo ran and dunked all over the visiting Pistons, who caught him only when center Andre Drummond shoved him to the ground late in the third quarter after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound with Detroit trailing by 41 points.
Drummond was given a flagrant 2 foul and ejected. He threw a kiss to the Fiserv Forum crowd as he was escorted off the court.
Antetokounmpo struggled at the free-throw line, making only five of 12 attempts, but was 9 for 17 from the field and 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
Luke Kennard paced the Pistons with 21 points off the bench, and Drummond had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Detroit played without forward Blake Griffin, who has a left knee injury.
TRAIL BLAZERS 104, THUNDER 99 Damian Lillard scored 30 points and third-seeded Portland opened its Western Conference series against sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder with a win at home.
Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who are making their sixth straight postseason appearance. C J McCollum added 24 points.
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds after a slow start.
Portland led by as many as 19 points in the first half, but the Thunder pulled to 80-77 early in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City could not get closer, and Lillard hit a 30-footer to extend the Blazers lead to 89-81 with 6 minutes 38 seconds left.
Westbrook appeared to hurt his right knee or ankle and grimaced while trying to walk it off. Trainers attended to him on the bench at the next timeout but he returned.
It was the first postseason meeting between the teams since the Thunder moved from Seattle in 2008. Oklahoma City beat the Blazers in all four meetings this season, including a heated 129-121 overtime victory on March 7.
The Thunder have been to the playoffs every season since the move, but they have not made it past the opening round for the past two seasons.