After beating Raptors, Celtics host Jazz
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics returned from a 1-4 road trip looking for answers, trying to find the form that had them favored to win the Eastern Conference.
Now, two games into a three-game homestand that ends against the Utah Jazz Saturday night, some of the answers have been found.
After cruising to a win over the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night, the Celtics pulled out a 123-116 overtime victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday night at TD Garden.
The Jazz, meanwhile, suffered an embarrassing 118-68 loss at Dallas Wednesday night and then fell at Philadelphia 113-107 Friday to fall to 7-8 on the season -- and that includes a 123-115 win over the Celtics in Salt Lake City Nov. 9.
Kyrie Irving scored 43 points, dished out 11 assists and added three steals, two rebounds and a blocked shot as Boston (9-6) evened the season series with Toronto at 1-1. Hitting 18 of his 26 shots from all over the floor, he won a bit of a one-on-one battle with Toronto's Kawhi Leonard, who had 31 points, 15 rebounds and four assists.
"I thought Kyrie was way more efficient so I have a different view of 'duel,'" said Boston's Marcus Morris.
"I would say when Kyrie Irving has it going, you tweak everything to get him the ball in space as much as possible," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
After the game, Gordon Hayward, whose free throws forced overtime, called Saturday night's second meeting with his former team "another revenge game," and said he hopes to play his first back-to-back since returning from that horrific leg injury.
His late contributions finished off a night that saw Hayward contribute 15 points (only eight shots), five rebounds, five assists and four steals in 39 minutes.
Said Stevens: "We don't need Gordon Hayward to score 30 points a game. We need him to be a jack of all trades. If he can score 15 points on eight shots like tonight, that's great."
Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points for the Jazz Friday night, but needed 35 shots from the floor and was just 1 of 11 from 3-point range. The team was 4 for 22 from behind the arc.
The Jazz fell behind early, battled back and led 107-105 with 1:37 remaining, but made costly mistakes when it counted.
"We competed but we have to be smarter," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the game. "We had some mistakes where we have to think more. They add up against a team like this."
Said Mitchell: "Up until the end, we made a few mistakes, but we played passionate. Honestly, they're a great team, but we had the game in the bag except for a few mistakes. I think the game just got away."
Jazz center Rudy Gobert was a minus-26 Friday night, tying his career worst in that category.
Saturday night marks the fourth game of Utah's five-game road trip. The Jazz ended a nine-game TD Garden losing streak with a win there last season.
In the first meeting between the Jazz and Celtics this season, Joe Ingles scored 27 points and added seven assists, former Celtic Jae Crowder posted 20 points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench, Mitchell scored 21 and Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Jazz.
Irving missed that game due to the death of his grandfather. Terry Rozier led Boston with 22 points, while Jayson Tatum had 21 and Morris 16 in that loss. The Celtics then ended their trip with a loss at Portland before coming home.