Gordon Hayward returned to the court for the first time during a regular season, against the Philadelphia 76ers, since his ankle injury in the opening game of the 2017-18 season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Almost a full year has passed since the last time Gordon Hayward had played a regular season or post season game.

Hayward played just 25 minutes, scoring 10 points, collecting 5 rebounds and gathering 4 steals. Hayward’s real impact on the game was his defense, as he currently leads the league with a defensive rating of 74. His defense came up huge at several points of the game and pushed Boston ahead to the 105-87 victory.

Even though the stat sheet isn’t the most enthralling, we are very pleased with the performance Gordon Hayward put forward. Here are the good things we liked.

The Confidence Came Back

Hayward started slowly and cautiously when the game began, definitely holding back and being very careful with his ankle. That’s to be expected, a player doesn’t want to suffer the same horrid injury twice. However, as the game progressed, you saw the confidence coming back and the extra hop to his step. Hayward came alive and it was fantastic.

Confidence is what we really want to see from Hayward. He needs to be comfortable on his ankle top take his game to the next level. We know how good he actually is, now we want to see him get back to the player we saw for years playing in Utah.

His Defense is Still Great

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As mentioned earlier, Gordon played his mind out on defense. He had 4 steals and shut down the people he faced against. To put into perspective, Robert Covington started at small forward against him. Covington finished the game at -11 on the field. Ouch. Covington shot 3 of 10 and scored 8 points. Hayward took on Ben Simmons at points of the game and looked solid. He played great defense.

Defense is what head coach Brad Stevens has hung his hat upon for years. Now, his star player, not even at 100% yet, is playing tough defense. That’s extremely bright for our man.

He Got Better as the Game Progressed

Hayward started slow, notching his first couple of steals earlier in the day, but being very limited offensively. As the game progressed, his offense ramped up and he finished his night with a bullet three point shot. He was shaking off the rust throughout the game, and that is encouraging.

The final thought on this from us here at Boston Sports Extra: Hayward is getting better, and within the next few weeks his minute restriction should be lifted. It’s a great time to be a Boston Celtics fan!