Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward certainly will be hearing taunts and jeers when he returns to Salt Lake City to face his former Utah Jazz teammates on Friday. Hayward spurned Utah’s efforts to re-sign him following the 2016-17 campaign, which left hard feelings among a fan base that adored him.Hayward broke his ankle in last season’s opener, so he didn’t have a chance to return to Utah but has said he is looking forward to playing the team with which he spent seven seasons. “I kind of knew they were going to be upset,” Hayward told Boston-area reporters. “None of it bothered me, except for the people that threw some stuff on fire at our house. That’s not acceptable. But other than that, people have a right to be mad.” The Celtics recovered from a 22-point, third-quarter deficit to post a 116-109 overtime win over Phoenix on Thursday, while the Jazz halted their four-game slide with a 117-102 home win over Dallas a day earlier. “After losing four straight, you kind of need that confidence going into Friday,” Utah guard Donovan Mitchell told reporters. “Obviously, it’s going to be a grind on Friday, and we’re fully aware of that, but we know we can do it. That’s the difference – we always know we can do it, and we went out there and did it, and we’ve got to continue to do it.”
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, NBCS Boston, AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountain (Utah)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (7-4): Postseason hero Terry Rozier has seen his playing time dip this season with Hayward and guard Kyrie Irving healthy, but he strongly denied a report saying he is unhappy with the organization. “I’m not complaining, and if you know me, I would never go to the media or bring out the unhappy thing,” Rozier told reporters. “I would never do that. Like I said, people who know me know I wouldn’t do that. I’ve never been a selfish type of person, selfish player. You can tell the way I play, I’m all about team. Everything will be all right. It’s not as bad as people make it seem.” Irving ignited Thursday’s rally and scored a season-best 39 points in the victory over Phoenix.
ABOUT THE JAZZ (5-6): Utah’s veterans were asked about Hayward’s return on Thursday, and the consensus is that there was disappointment with his decision, but everyone has moved on 16 months later. “Gordon is a good guy, I think I’m a good guy,” center Rudy Gobert told reporters. “Sometimes you make choices that you think are good for you. You don’t have to judge anyone. It’s just a game, and we’re gonna go play basketball.” Gobert is enjoying a strong start to the season, producing 11 straight double-digit rebounding efforts while averaging 16.4 points and 13.1 rebounds.
1. The teams split two meetings last season, with the road club winning on each occasion.
2. Hayward has scored in single digits in five of his last seven games.
3. Mitchell scored 23 points against Dallas for his sixth 20-point effort of the season.