NBA Playoffs: As Gordon Hayward begins to look like his former character, the Celtics look like the team we thought we could do.



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The Boston Celtics have swept the Indiana Pacers and are now guaranteed to face the Milwaukee Bucks, the highest ranked, in the second round. What speculation would begin on whether this would mean that the Celtics, who were sort of a mess embarrassing most of the regular season, turned the proverbial switch over. There is no doubt that they looked good against Indiana, fifth seeded. Basically, their energy is up. Their overall pace, even against a team from Indiana to congratulate for having nothing facilitated, is clearly in good stead. The Celtics look and feel … positive.

They were also losing three of the four games at halftime facing an Indiana team playing without Victor Oladipo and with a significant talent gap. It was about as competitive as a scan can be. On one side, you liked the courage of Boston and its ability to generate space and close close games. It did not seem like the Celtics were playing with a less talented team. It was as if Indiana was playing. On the other hand, the Pacers, despite all their courage, are not even close to the Bucks.

But these are not the Pistons either.

While Boston, seeded fourth, has been tested and responded, Milwaukee will participate in this second-round match after having a much easier time against a much worse team than Detroit. The Bucks, regarding some of their potential pitfalls in the playoffs, have their own questions and have not been able to really answer any of them against a much lower team, but most players from the league to whom I spoke always believe in them being the favorite to come out of the east. It was a distinction that belonged, quite firmly, to the Celtics before the start of the season, and the reasons were clearly exposed against the Pacers.

High-end talent. Incredible depth. Versatility at both ends. Kyrie Irving, an unparalleled stallion who was sensational about Indiana, walked brilliantly between the pursuit of her fault and the participation of all the others. When he does that, and the actors react to the participation, they can beat anybody. Watch the fourth game: Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Gordon Hayward combined 49 points on the bench with a 69% shot. This is not just the depth in terms of usable bodies. This is an important production depth. Few teams can match that.

Let's talk about Hayward, more precisely, for a second. He scored 20 points on 7 out of 9 shots in the fourth match. And it was not just the points: it was his way of getting them, cashing his three points, and probably more importantly, attacking the rim. and out of the rebound like his old man. Check the false decisive shot, drive and finish here:

Here he recovers a loose ball in the backcourt and moves straight up to the edge:

They called an offensive foul on Aron Baynes for clearing the hallway of this game, but Hayward attacking like that at full speed without hesitation until the rim is impressive to see. Here, he does it again late in the fourth quarter, recognizing an imbalance with Myles Turner and returning the ball to the perimeter to set up a head-to-head descent:

Now that he is attacking and ending like this, he puts the defenders on their heels and opens the way:

Earlier this season, a person close to the Celtics told CBS Sports that Hayward was very dependent on the way Boston played, ie when the Celtics had a good pace as a team . fall in and look great. But it was not yet physically, or even mentally, to stand out when the Celtics were in a collective funk, which was the case for long distances this season.

The Celtics had a pretty good pace for most of this series in Indiana, but the Hayward that we saw in the fourth game seemed independent of any outside influence. Hayward was doing his own rhythm, his own plays, his own brand. It was Gordon Hayward that the Celtics were happy to sign a four-year, up to $ 128 million contract – a man who can be a second legitimate star alongside Kyrie, playing alone in the descent , standing out from the screens and finishing in the middle having made contact with the lane and finishing from different angles, training the defenders with him on picks and throws and opening the way for the shearers.

When you can put the ball in Hayward's hands, for crucial heats, with total confidence in his ability to play, with the positions of Irving, Tatum and Horford around him, the defenses are in danger. They have even more problems when Tatum does not settle for disputed intermediate ranks but instead attacks on the basket, which he did quite regularly against Indiana, and when Irving and Horford get stuck in their game to two. Jaylen Brown and Rozier play a formidable role in defense and add a combined total of 17 points against Indiana and a defensive unit that seems stifling again (although you clearly had to take into account the lack of offensive options from the Pacers), then remember that Marcus Smart could still be back, and yes, this Celtics team seems to be doing the best at the right time.

"You'll see a different team in the playoffs," said a league scout at CBS Sports about the Celtics in early April. "I think they're just waiting a bit to get there now."

They are here now and so far, they look a lot like the team that everyone thought they could be.

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