Boston • Gordon Hayward spun around and leaned back in the air, fading in the direction of the Celtics’ bench and his old college coach, as his jumper pushed the Utah Jazz’s lead to 16-3 midway through the first quarter.
But basketball at this level is a game of swings. Momentum shifts.
Storylines Celtics 97, Jazz 87The Jazz jump out to a 16-3 lead but find themselves trailing by as much as 25.
» Gordon Hayward scores a game-high 28 points.
Hayward’s former coach, Brad Stevens, said as much Wednesday night after beating the Utah Jazz 97-87 and earning his first victory as head coach of the Boston Celtics.
"The game, in the NBA," the ex-Butler coach said, "just fluctuates."
For the Jazz, to this point, losing has been a constant.
But how the team got there Wednesday — its fifth straight loss to open the campaign, marking the team’s worst start since the franchise moved to Utah — was marked by ups and downs.
After a hot start came misery — a lifeless second quarter that saw Utah counter its awful offensive production by allowing Jeff Green and the Celtics too much time and space to line up and knock down shots. Boston was on a 40-14 run when the halftime buzzer sounded.
There was a comeback after that. Down by 25 at one point and playing the second game of back-to-back thousands of miles from home, the Jazz battled back in the fourth quarter, cutting the Celtics’ lead to six before turnovers and timely Boston buckets sealed the loss.
As they turn toward a Friday night game in Chicago, it would be easy enough for the winless Jazz, firmly in the midst of a rebuilding season, to try to remember that silver lining above all else.
"The guys showed some fight at the end of the game," coach Ty Corbin said.
But sitting on 0-5, Jazz forward Richard Jefferson wasn’t claiming any moral victories.
"That’s fools’ gold," he said. "I think it’s great to try and save face but we came in here against a team we feel was in a similar position as us. They’re a team that was hungry and needed a win, and when you get two teams that both need wins, you’re going to see who wants it more. Obviously, tonight, they did."
After getting pounced on early the night before in Brooklyn, the Jazz looked lively early in Boston. Enes Kanter hit on his first four shots and Utah held a 26-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
But then the Jazz fell apart.
Utah went 4 for 17 from the floor, mustering just 8 points in the second period. The Jazz shot no free throws in the quarter while committing seven of their 22 turnovers.
"Eight points in the second quarter costs you the game," Corbin said.
Jefferson helped provide a spark in the third quarter, slashing to the basket and scoring nine of his 13 points in the period.
Hayward was the focus of the pre-game attention as he faced off against Stevens, for whom he played at Butler, reaching the NCAA title game in 2010. On the court, once again, he shouldered the load for the Jazz. He scored 28 points while recording nine rebounds and five assists.
Kanter finished the night with 22 points and eight boards. Derrick Favors had 10 and 14.
For the Celtics, Green and Brandon Bass led the way with 18 and 20 on the night. Big men Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk also scored in double figures off the bench.
The Jazz cut the Boston lead to six with 41/2 minutes to play, but a pair of late turnovers made completing the comeback nearly impossible.
"It’s frustrating, very frustrating," Hayward said after the loss. "It’s the little things that we aren’t doing. That’s why we’re losing basketball games. We’ve got to pay attention to the details. We have the talent — no question — we have the talent to win basketball games. … It’s the details and the focus is not there for the whole 48 minutes. You saw we can play with anybody, but we just lose our focus, lose intensity, and teams in this league really punish that."
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