CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Gordon Hayward finally returned to game action Friday night.
“Definitely good to get that one out of the way,” Hayward said. “Didn’t feel like I played my best basketball, but I was having fun out there and it was good to be back with the guys. Definitely had some good moments, some bad ones.”
It was Hayward’s first time in a game since Oct. 17, when he broke the tibia in his left leg and dislocated the ankle about five minutes into the Celtics’ regular-season opener at Cleveland.
“I’ve been through a lot this past year, so just to be out there in front of the fans, playing with my teammates, there were moments that I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do that. So, that was definitely a win,” Hayward said.
Hayward’s first points came when he grabbed an offensive rebound in transition early in the opening quarter and scored easily. He finished 2-for-7 from the field, playing about 23 minutes.
“The one cut to the rim, I usually would have dunked that one. Tried to go up off my leg and just didn’t have it, I guess,” Hayward said. “So, that stuff I think will come back, that little explosion. I’m certain of that. … It was just the speed of the game, just the crowd, that’s something I need to get used to again.”
Kyrie Irving played for the first time since March 11, when his 2017-18 season ended with a knee issue. He finished with nine points. But the night also was significant because he finally got to play at North Carolina.
Irving played his lone college season at Duke in 2010-11 but was limited to 11 games that season by injury and never played against the Tar Heels, the Blue Devils’ biggest rival. Friday’s game was played before a crowd of more than 18,000 inside the Dean E. Smith Center.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.