Hayward’s game-winner lifts Celtics over Kings 111-109

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — Instead of dwelling on his mistake that let Sacramento tie the game in the closing seconds, Gordon Hayward made it moot.

Hayward made up for a costly foul by hitting a tiebreaking shot with two seconds to play that helped the Boston Celtics overcome the absence of injured star Kyrie Irving in a 111-109 victory over the Kings on Wednesday night.

Hayward fouled Buddy Hield on a three-point attempt with 7.6 seconds left, allowing Sacramento to pull even. Boston had no timeouts and inbounded the ball to Hayward, who went the length of the court before hitting a fall-away for the win.

“It felt good more than anything because I almost lost us the game with the foul,” he said.

“I was trying to get that one back for us. More than anything, just happy for our team and we found a way to win these last two games, especially with what we were going through. It’s been a roller coaster and we want to be on an up when we get to the playoffs.”

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (R) goes up for the go-ahead shot against Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield. – AP

Harrison Barnes then missed a three at the buzzer, giving the Celtics their second win in two nights to start a four-game California swing. Boston had lost five of six before starting this trip with a 33-point win at two-time defending champion Golden State and then the dramatic victory over the Kings the following night.

Hayward scored 30 points against the Warriors and is rounding back into the form he showed before suffering a gruesome ankle injury in the opener last season after signing a USD128 million, four-year deal to join the Celtics.

“It shows you the confidence he still has,” teammate Marcus Morris said. “It’s building and building. A lot of people are trying to write him off and say he’s not going to be who he was. As a player, that’s tough.”

Jayson Tatum led Boston with 24 points, Al Horford had 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and Hayward finished with 12 points.

Barnes scored 24 points and Hield added 23 for the Kings, who have lost four of five and trail San Antonio by four games in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot.

“It’s always a tough one to lose a close game like that,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “Sometimes it comes down to a few key possessions. They made a lot of tough shots.”

The Kings erased a six-point deficit in the final three minutes thanks in part to two drives by Fox and a hustle block by Hield that prevented a fast-break layup for Marcus Smart.

Hield’s free throws then tied the game before Hayward delivered the game-winner for Boston.

“Everyone was tight on their man,” Hayward said. “It was almost just like one-on-one. The lane kind of cleared out and I was able to make the move.”