It was a great, great boost. We got Derrick back and so it was a great game. —Alec Burks
SALT LAKE CITY — Brad Stevens admitted he got chills when he walked into EnergySolutions Arena on Monday morning.
The Celtics' rookie coach experienced a rush of memories of his Gordon Hayward-led Butler team's 2010 NCAA run, which ended with a heartbreaking loss in the championship game after upset wins over No. 1 seed Syracuse and second-seeded Kansas State in Utah.
“We were on the runway (and our) plane got delayed by about three hours getting out of here, and it didn’t matter," Stevens recalled. "It could have been delayed for two days and none of us would’ve cared.”
His team wouldn’t have been so thrilled about getting stuck on the tarmac after this trip.
Four years after Butler’s memorable March Madness moment, Hayward and his current team ended up enjoying the informal college reunion on this court much more than his former coach as the Utah Jazz breezed to a 110-98 win over Boston.
While it likely won’t be etched into the happy place in their brains, the Jazz needed this one after coming out of the All-Star break with three consecutive losses.
“We bounced back,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “To see the execution tonight after last ballgame was really good.”
It wasn't a perfect night for Hayward. The Jazz shooting guard didn't exactly break out of his ongoing slump. He missed 7-of-11 shots, including all four 3-point attempts, and only scored eight points. The team captain, shooting 30 percent over his 12 previous games, did contribute 10 assists.
“He’s playing hard. He’s trying to fight his way through it,” Corbin said. “We’re just trying to keep him encouraged and lift him up, and he’ll get through this thing. He does other things for us.”
Unlike Saturday, when the lifeless Jazz were throttled 121-104 at home by Minnesota, there was no shortage of players lifting Utah up on this night.
Center Derrick Favors, looking like a man with a new hip, returned from his three-game absence to score 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He also swatted three blocked shots while helping hold Boston to 44 percent shooting.
Backup guard Alec Burks continued his strong offensive outings with a team-high 21 points.
Marvin Williams had 19 points, hit 8-of-10 shots and grabbed a team-best seven rebounds for the Jazz, who knocked down a sizzling 55 percent from the field. Trey Burke and Enes Kanter each chipped in a dozen points, and Jeremy Evans came off the bench to record a career-high four blocked shots.
“Yeah, I think it was rusty,” Williams said of the Jazz’s performance last week. “Coach gave us (Sunday) off. Guys got rest that needed rest. Other guys that needed work got their work. And it really helped us out today.”
Nobody’s presence helped more than Favors, though. The Jazz have lost all nine games he’s missed this year and have allowed opponents to score 106.3 points on average in his absence. Utah holds foes to about 99 points with the 6-10 defensive anchor.
“It was a great, great boost,” Burks said. “We got Derrick back and so it was a great game.”
As such, Utah improved to 17-9 with the starting lineup of Trey Burke, Hayward, Richard Jefferson, Marvin Williams and Favors.
“I’m happy to be out there and help the team win,” Favors said. “We’ve got to improve it and make it two in a row.”
Although the Jazz were happy to get the victory, the win actually might come back to hurt their lottery draft chances. Utah improved to 20-36, while Boston dropped to 19-39 after losing its fifth game in a row.
“Sometimes,” Celtics center Kelly Olynyk said, “it doesn’t go your way.”
More often than not, things have gone the Celtics' way in these teams’ meetings in recent years. The Jazz had lost seven straight to Boston. In fact, not one current player was on Utah’s roster the last time the Celtics lost in this series back on March 22, 2010.
Coincidentally, that was just three days before Stevens and Hayward celebrated a 63-59 upset win over Syracuse in the Sweet 16 at ESA.
On Monday morning, Stevens smiled and described that victory and the ensuing Elite Eight win over KSU as “one of the greatest sporting moments that I’ve ever been a part of, certainly.”
Stevens and Hayward reminisced over that — and their time together — at dinner Sunday night in Salt Lake City after the Celtics traveled in from northern California.
“We caught up, mostly just about life, not really about basketball that much,” Hayward said. “We did talk about the ejection (Saturday in Sacramento). I had to give him something — something about that. It was just good catching up with him, good seeing him.”
As friends do, Hayward couldn’t resist poking fun at Stevens for the first ejection in his basketball life at any level.3 comments on this story
“He said, ‘No comment on that one.’ He didn’t think it was necessarily the right thing,” Hayward said at shootaround. “I told him if he wants to get ejected tonight that’s fine too.”
That didn’t happen.
But for the first time, Stevens lost at ESA. Now the Butler products are tied up in the NBA, seeing as the Celtics won Round 1 back in November.
“The bottom line is,” the Celtics coach said, “they (Jazz) got rolling.”