Gordon Hayward’s progress is incremental, but in the wake of Wednesday night’s 35-point performance against Minnesota, the Celtics’ forward can say with confidence that his movement is returning.

Especially of the lateral kind.

“I think it’s slowly getting there. Like I think my lateral movement, it’s so much better since the beginning of the season,” said Hayward, who dislocated and fractured his left tibia in the opener last season. “But I think that’s pretty close to where it was.

“I think vertically I still have a little ways to go. My ankle is a little sore right now. But I think in April and May it’ll be better than it is right now. I’m still doing stuff for my ankle every day, trying to get it better … it’s the nature of the injury. It’s getting better.”

Perhaps the most encouraging sign was Hayward’s ability to drive past defenders for a pair of dunks Wednesday night.

“I think my movement is getting better. I think there are still so many things to work on,” said Hayward, who has played in 33 games and is averaging 11.1 points per game. “Consistency is going to be huge to have – it’s not games like this all the time, it’s just staying aggressive and attack, as opposed to being passive.”

THOUGH THE Celtics clearly could have used the size and presence of rookie Robert Williams, the young big man missed his fourth straight game due to a strained groin.

“Robert Williams tweaked his groin from what I gather in a shootaround in Houston, and didn’t really remember the exact moment, but was unable to warm up that night,” Coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s making good progress, should be back shortly, but not ready yet.”

The real problem though, as the Celtics continue to suffer in the paint with an undermanned frontcourt, is the absence of Aron Baynes – out for the foreseeable future as he continues his recovery from hand surgery.

“No Baynes puts a lot of stress on us. We have to pick up for his absence,” Stevens said. “That’s one of the things we’ve been good at. We aren’t going to talk about who is not available.

“We have to do a better job of holding our ground in the post one through five.”

BOSTON GM Danny Ainge doesn’t seem to anticipate making any moves before the trade deadline in February, saying in a radio interview that improving on the talent Boston currently has would be difficult.

“As far as trading, I don’t really see much out there,” Ainge said.