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After Career Night In Cleveland, It's Clear That Gordon Hayward Is Back

By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics of last season made it a point to give Gordon Hayward an on-court celebratory dousing after every big game from the forward, a tradition that continues in 2019-20. But it may have to come to an end, because the Celtics are wasting a whole lot of water just six games into the season.

Hayward had a career night in Cleveland on Tuesday and his best game in a Celtics uniform, matching his career-high of 39 points on an absurd 17-for-20 night from the floor in Boston's 119-113 win over the Cavaliers. He hit all 16 shots that he took from inside the three-point line, attacking the hoop and displaying the explosiveness that earned him an All-Star nod in Utah back in 2017. That explosiveness had been absent due to his devastating ankle injury from two seasons ago, but it was back in spades Tuesday night in Cleveland -- the very arena he suffered that gruesome injury.

The full arsenal of Gordon Hayward was on display during his career evening against the Cavs. He spent much of his night flying to the basket, with seven of his makes coming at the rim, or taking mid-range shots. His patented plant and spin move was back and as ferocious as it was in Utah, a sure sign that his ankle injury is just a distant memory at this point.

He's once again playing carefree on the floor, and it's evident that good things do indeed happen when Hayward goes to the cup. When he wasn't making shots for himself on Tuesday, he was finding open teammates, finishing the night with eight assists. He also added seven rebounds, including a game-sealing offensive rebound and putback with 22.8 seconds left, stealing the board from Cleveland's rebounding machine Kevin Love.

It was an insanely efficient night for Hayward, who became the first player to shoot a perfect 16-for-16 on two-point attempts since Wilt Chamberlain accomplished the feat back in 1967. For the season, Hayward is hitting 48 percent of his shots from the field, and even after a 1-for-4 night from beyond the arc on Tuesday, he's hitting 58 percent of his attempts from downtown.

Good things happen for the Celtics when Hayward drops 30 or more in a game; Boston is a perfect 4-0 when he lights up the scoreboard like Tuesday night.

It's still early in the season, but Hayward is averaging 20.3 points (good for third on Boston) and 7.5 rebounds (first on the squad). The high hopes for the Celtics entering the season focused on Kemba Walker taking over for the departed Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum taking his game to a new level, but if Hayward continues to play like he has been through six games, the ceiling for the Boston Celtics gets much, much higher.

And maybe, just maybe, the team will stop ruining his incredible hair after his monster evenings.

"Hopefully they can maybe stop dumping water on me, too, after every good game," Hayward said after the game.

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