He might have scored just six points but Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward made his mark as he returned to action in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
TAKEAWAYS: Celtics earn crucial Game 3 victory
After missing nearly five weeks with a Grade 3 ankle sprain, Hayward saw 30 minutes of action and added five rebounds, four assists and three steals in Boston's 11-point win to avoid falling down into a 0-3 series deficit.
Following the Celtics' crucial win, a number of Celtics were complimentary of Hayward, from head coach Brad Stevens to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
"I thought he did what he's done all year," Stevens told reporters. "He didn't shoot it quite as much, but he is a stabilizing force for our team … He makes us better, that's for sure."
After checking in at the 5:06 mark of the first quarter, Hayward almost immediately made his presence felt with this dish to a rolling Daniel Theis.
good to see this guy back on the court 😏 pic.twitter.com/pI7LHhHk92- Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 20, 2020
Brown spoke on Hayward's passing, saying "Gordon was great. He gave us an extra body. He can make plays. He's only going to continue to go up," per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports.
MORE: Celtics need Hayward now more than ever
It was Tatum that had quite possibly the biggest compliment for Hayward, saying "we're so much better when he's out there, so much more dynamic, so much more versatile … To have him back is everything."
Hayward, who entered Game 3 on a "minutes monitoring," per Jay King of The Athletic, ended up playing much more than the team planned for him to. According to Mark Medina of USA Today, Hayward said that he was "extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore."
Working in the favour of Hayward and the Celtics is that they will have three days off before taking the floor for Game 4, which is set for Thursday, Sept. 24 at 6 a.m IST.
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