Gordon Hayward Expected To Return Against Heat

Celtics forward Gordon Hayward will likely return next round from a Grade 3 right ankle sprain, head coach Brad Stevens said after the team’s series-clinching Game 7 win over Toronto, as relayed by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).

Hayward cleared a five-day quarantine on Friday and was seen putting up shots pre-game. The 30-year-old last appeared in a game on August 11.

“Great effort by all the guys picking each other up tonight. Excited for the Conference Finals! #BleedGreen,” Hayward wrote on social media.

Boston has managed to defeat Philadelphia and Toronto without Hayward, a reliable option who averaged 17.5 points per game this season. While it appears likely he’ll return against the Heat, a specific timeline hasn’t been released by the club. It’s also unclear whether Hayward will be brought off the bench, as he started in all 52 games this season.

The Celtics are set to open the Eastern Conference Finals against an impressive Miami team on Tuesday night, with Game 2 slated for Thursday and Game 3 for Saturday. The team lost its only meeting against the Heat in Orlando 112-106 on August 4, with Jimmy Butler sitting out due to injury.

Stevens has coached the Celtics to the conference finals in three of the last four seasons, but the team hasn’t made the NBA Finals since 2010. The C’s lost a seven-game battle to the Heat during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, though the only remaining member of either of those squads is Miami’s Udonis Haslem.

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