Gordon Hayward returns for Celtics in Game 3 after ankle injury, leaving bubble

After more than a month away, Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward finally returned to the court on Saturday night.

Hayward came off the bench for the Celtics in their 117-106 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Walt Disney World.

“It felt weird out there. It’s been four or five weeks or whatever since I’ve played basketball,” Hayward said. “I think it was really fun being back otu there with the team, with the guys. I just tried to impact our team in winning ways, whatever I could do.

“First five minutes, I was gassed. I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore, but just proud of the way we fought, proud of us getting the win.”

There had been growing optimism throughout the day that Hayward would return on Saturday night, however, coach Brad Stevens said that the decision would be up to Hayward after warmups.

Hayward was supposed to be on a minutes restriction, however actually surpassed what was initially planned on. Hayward finished the night with six points, five rebounds and four assists while shooting 2-of-7 from the field in 30 minutes.

Hayward first injured his ankle in Game 1 of Boston’s opening-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers with a Grade 3 ankle sprain just more than a month ago. He left the bubble soon after — something that he had always planned to do — in order to be with his wife for the birth of their fourth child.

The 30-year-old was averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game this season.

The Celtics held on after taking a massive 20-point lead in the fourth quarter on Saturday night to grab the 11-point win, their first of the series. They trail Miami 2-1 headed into Game 4 next week.

Boston Celtics' Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward first injured his ankle nearly a month ago, and hasn't seen the court since. (AP/Ashley Landis, Pool)

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