NBA DAILY DRIBBLE: Gordon Hayward finally shows All-Star form

NBA results: December 2, 2018

Milwaukee Bucks (134) – New York Knicks (136)

Golden State Warriors (102) – Detroit Pistons (111)

Brooklyn Nets (88) – Washington Wizards (102)

Toronto Raptors (106) – Cleveland Cavaliers (95)

Chicago Bulls (105) – Houston Rockets (121)

Boston Celtics (118) – Minnesota Timberwolves (109)

Indiana Pacers (111) – Sacramento (110)

Three things that happened in the NBA today:

1. Hayward scores season high

Boston is finally turning their season around. Coming into the game against Minnesota, the Celtics have won back-to-back games where they scored season-highs. Their offense was clicking, Kyrie Irving was leading the way and everyone else was pitching it. There was only one thing missing so far, Gordon Hayward.

Throughout the first two months of the season, Hayward has struggled to find his All-Star form from the previous seasons. He was supposed to be the second-best scorer on the team and a big part of the constantly moving offense of the Celtics. But in the first 21 games that Hayward has played in, he just averaged 10 points, five rebounds and three assists per game.

Against the Timberwolves, the Hayward Boston envisioned when they signed him finally showed up. Hayward exploded for a season-high 30 points on 50% shooting with four three-pointers made. He was aggressive all game long, driving strong to the hoop and hitting all 10 of his free throws. Hayward even added nine rebounds and eight assists.

Hayward took over at a crucial point the fourth period. He nailed a three-pointer to break a tie early in the period. He then found Terry Rozier for a fast break score with a pinpoint outlet pass. In the final two minutes of the game, Hayward scored on a drive and nailed a corner three-pointer to put the game away.

That’s the Hayward Boston needs to contend. He played off the ball well when Irving was running the show. Hayward was a playmaker on the post or off the drive freeing up Irving to play off the ball as well. He was aggressive and didn’t hesitate to step up in the end game.

2. Mario Hezonja vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo

In the first quarter of the game between the Knicks and the Bucks, Mario Hezonja stole the ball and quickly ran it down the court. He nudged away Khris Middleton and rose up for a dunk as Giannis Antetokounmpo rose up for the chasedown block. Hezonja detonated with a two-hand hammer. Antetokounmpo fell to the floor and Hezonja deliberately stepped over the Antetokounmpo as he went back down the floor.

The Greek Freak hammered home a strong dunk a few minutes later but that was an afterthought to Hezonja pulling an Iverson on him. In fact the result of the game was secondary to the disrespect Hezonja put on Antetokounmpo’s name.

After the game, Antetokounmpo was asked about the dunk and step over. Clearly, he remembered the incident. He was steaming when he took the question and without even breaking a smile, he said this:

Yup. He actually said he was going to punch Hezonja in the nuts. He wasn’t joking too.

PS: The Knicks won after coming back from 14 points down in the fourth period to force OT.

3. Curry returns but Pistons hand Warriors a loss

The Warriors continue to break streaks, but not in a good way.

Steph Curry returned from a groin injury to try and help the Warriors bounce back from their last loss against the Raptors. The raw numbers looked good. Curry had 27 points, five rebounds and three assists. But watching Curry, it looked like he wasn’t back to 100%. Curry was hesitant and didn’t look like his usual smooth self.

The Pistons took advantage of Curry’s off night to get the win. Six players scored in double digits led by Blake Griffin with 26 points.

Drummond had a big double-double of 16 points and 19 rebounds. Reggie Jackson scored 17 while Stanley Johnson added 19 off the bench.

The Pistons have now won five straight games and have taken over the fourth seed in the East.

Photo from USA Today