Enes Kanter smiled and pointed at the man one locker over.
“Welcome back,” he said.
After missing three straight games — and seven of the Jazz’s previous 13 — with a lingering hip injury, Derrick Favors was back in the starting lineup Monday and showing with his play why the Jazz are winless (0-9) on the year when he’s out.
Favors scored 20 points, pulled down four rebounds and blocked three shots to help the Jazz snap a three-game losing streak by beating the Boston Celtics 110-98 at EnergySolutions Arena.
“I was rusty, man, to tell you the truth,” Favors said after the win. “But it just felt good to be back out there.”
If Favors felt rust, it hardly showed as he opened the game with a couple 16-foot jump shots and a putback slam. On a night when the Jazz shot 55 percent from the floor, Favors hit on seven of his eight attempts.
Perhaps more importantly was the team’s defensive energy, something it sorely lacked in Saturday night’s 121-104 loss to the Timberwolves. The Jazz held the Celtics to under 100 points, kept them to 44 percent shooting (and 26.7 percent from 3) and blocked eight shots.
Four of those swats came courtesy of forward Jeremy Evans, a new career high.
“We’re glad to have Fav back,” said Evans, who also had four points and six rebounds. “I think we have more options [when he plays]. That gives everybody else more energy.”
“I think everybody has a little more confidence knowing that he’s behind you and kind of the anchor of our defense,” swingman Gordon Hayward said.
Hayward scored eight points on a 4-of-11 shooting, but dished 10 assists and finished with four rebounds, in his second meeting with Brad Stevens, the man who coached him to the NCAA title game at Butler. Stevens, the first-year NBA coach, patrolled the Boston sideline in front of the very bench where he said he first knew Hayward would leave college early.
“Gordon hit a step-back where he went between his legs and behind his back,” Stevens said, recalling that game at EnergySolutions Arena in 2010. “We had never seen it and he just did it on national TV in the Elite Eight.”
Hayward called it “weird” to see Stevens on the opposite bench, but he’d had some time to get adjusted to the idea, having played again — and losing to — the Celtics in Boston earlier this year.
“We owed him one,” Hayward said.
Stevens’ Celtics (19-39) were missing forward Jared Sullinger and playing the fourth and final game of a Western road trip. The Jazz took advantage.
“We did a good job of getting down the floor quickly and attacking inside,” coach Ty Corbin said. “To see the execution tonight after the last ballgame was really good.”
Jeff Green and Kelly Olynyk each scored 21 points for Boston.
Utah had six players in double-digit scoring, led by 21 from Alec Burks.
The Jazz held a 59-46 lead over the Celtics at halftime. And when Diante Garrett hit a six-foot runner early in the fourth quarter, the advantage was 18.
The Celtics pushed back, cutting the lead to nine on a Rajon Rondo jumper with 2:51 left in the game. Their run would end there.
Hayward found Favors in the pick-and-roll for a bucket and a free throw to give the Jazz a double-digit lead, and an end to a three-game skid.
“We’ve got to improve it and make it two in a row,” Favors said.
The Jazz (20-36) next play Jeff Hornacek’s Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.