Nobody wants to root for injuries, but when Gordon Hayward limped off the court in the fourth quarter of Game 1, Sixers fans couldn’t help thinking that Philadelphia might have caught a break. Unfortunately for Gordon and the Celtics, the news is not good, as the starting wing will miss the next four weeks with a Grade 3 right ankle sprain, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania:
Celtics’ Gordon Hayward has a Grade 3 right ankle sprain and will miss four weeks.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 18, 2020
Hayward’s injury has the potential to alter the trajectory of this series. Aside from sixth man Marcus Smart, who will presumably replace Hayward in the starting lineup, Boston’s bench contributors in Game 1 consisted of the Enes Kanter-Robert Williams III backup center pairing, 10 minutes from Brad Wanamaker, and two minutes from Grant Williams. Instead of a former All-Star and guy averaging almost 18 points per game this season, extended minutes will now likely go to Wanamaker, a second-year player who has 27 total playoff minutes on his resume.
Meanwhile, Smart may be one of the league’s best defenders, but his insertion in the starting lineup gives the Sixers somewhere to hide their weakest defender. Smart is not the on-ball creator that Hayward is, and you’re talking about a 3-point shooting drop-off between the two of 38.3 to 34.7 percent this season (although Smart seems to have outlier shooting explosions against the Sixers).
With Ben Simmons out, the Sixers were at their wits’ end in Game 1 trying to slow down Boston’s wings. Look no further than the 61 combined points from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as evidence. Hayward’s sudden exit from the series gives Philadelphia’s perimeter defenders one fewer headache on that end of the court. Hopefully, the Sixers can capitalize on Hayward’s absence and Philadelphia fans can look back on the injury as a turning point in the series.