On Tuesday afternoon in Charlotte, Gordon Hayward did his best to make sure his Boston Celtics ended the calendar year strong to head into 2020 on the right foot.
Gordon poured in 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out six assists as the Celtics (23-8) bounced back from Saturday’s loss at home to Toronto with a 109-92 win over the Hornets (13-23) at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. Afterward, G talked up Boston’s defense, which held an opponent under 100 points for the 10th time in 31 games.
“It was a good bounce-back win for us. I think we tightened it up defensively – I think that was the big key we were trying to focus on after some slippage – I think that was biggest deal for us.”
For Gordon, the performance was his best and most complete game since returning to the lineup Dec. 12 after missing a month with a hand injury. To put No. 20’s night in perspective, he tallied his fifth 20-plus point game of the season and had his most points since he scored 39 against the Cleveland Cavaliers back on Nov. 5.
Gordon’s rebound total was also his highest since Nov. 7, when he grabbed 10 against this very same Charlotte team. His six assists ranked second in the game, behind only the seven tallied by Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Devonte’ Graham.
Gordon Hayward with his 3rd double-double of the season (2nd vs CHA this season) 21pts 10reb 6ast.
— John Focke (@JWFOCKE) December 31, 2019
Gordon Hayward recorded his third 20/10/5 game this season — matching a career high in a single season (2013-14 with Utah).
He's truly back. pic.twitter.com/7ZnvtHE8Jg
— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 31, 2019
— nhnonna (@nhnonna) December 31, 2019
It’s great to see Gordon Hayward balling like he used to in Utah again
— Christopher☘️ (@TheKembaEra) December 31, 2019
Statistical achievements aside, a key takeaway from G-Time’s game on Tuesday was his offensive efficiency and ball security. He shot 9-for-14 from the field and 3-for-6 from long distance, including this gem.
He committed only two turnovers during the game despite the ball regularly being in his hands and during Gordon’s nearly 35 minutes of action, Boston outscored Charlotte by 12 points.
— joiethomson (@joiethomson7) December 31, 2019
“I finally got a couple of threes to go down. I found some rhythm out there so that was important for me moving forward and I’ll try to build off this one.”
So the offense with healthy Gordon Hayward: Pretty good!
— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) December 31, 2019
Gordon got Boston off on the right foot with a strong opening quarter and by halftime was up to 13 points as the Celtics carried a seven-point lead into the locker room at the break.
Celtics did incredibly well defensively but let up in the later half. Can’t have that happen. Gordon Hayward dishing and splashing and definitely the player of the quarter. Tatum with 13pts, Hayward with 12pts and Walker with 10pts.
— 2020: The Glowup (@FPSRPGJess) December 31, 2019
In the third quarter, G-Time put the pedal down and Boston pulled away. Thanks to his seven points, three rebounds and a pair of assists in the third, the Celtics hung tight with a game Charlotte squad to keep the advantage at seven entering the fourth.
Gordon Hayward finishes the third quarter leading the #Celtics in points (19), rebounds (8) and assists (5)
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) December 31, 2019
The Gordon Hayward + bench unit has been outstanding today. The defense they played at between the 1st and 2nd quarters and then to end the 3rd was big.
— Good Tydings (@StevenTydings) December 31, 2019
Gordon Hayward is carrying this team
— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) December 31, 2019
As outstanding as Gordon was on Tuesday afternoon, he wasn’t the only Celtic to see success on the offensive side of the ball. Boston had three players score at least 21 points, while no Hornets player scored more than 15. Jayson Tatum led the game with 24 points, while Kemba Walker recorded 23 points in his return to Charlotte where he spent the last eight seasons in the Tar Heel state.
In addition to monster offensive nights by the Cs starters, Enes Kanter came off the bench to grab a game-high 14 rebounds while blocking a career-high six shots and added 13 points. Kanter grabbed the two most important boards of the game within 29 seconds of playing time. Each rebound stood as a critical play, as he turned both boards into buckets.
Kanter’s first rebound came off a shot from Brad Wanamaker that was blocked by Charlotte. Kanter bent down, hauled in the loose ball and quickly dropped in an uncontested layup for two points. The second board also came off a miss by Wanamaker, coincidentally, just 29 seconds later. This rebound also served as a tip-in basket for two points, a basket that pushed Boston’s lead up to 11 points at the 10:26 mark of the final quarter. Those two rebounds were his only offensive boards of the afternoon but they made a huge difference.
“I didn’t realize it was six blocks. That’s pretty big time,” Gordon said afterward. “He’s been telling people he’s a stop sign. I hope that he’s going to continue to be a stop sign for us. We need him on that end.”
“Give me the MVP baby!” Kanter said postgame.
The C’s will have two days off before returning to action Friday, January 3, to take on the Atlanta Hawks (7-27) in the friendly confines of TD Garden, which has proven to be one of the toughest places for road teams to secure a win this season. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Boston.