Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward expected Wednesday night at TD Garden to be weird.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who coached Hayward at Butler, expected the same.
And then Hayward scored a game-high 28 points in the Jazz’ 97-87 loss to the Celtics, nearly completing a comeback after the Jazz trailed by 25.
Hayward scored 16 points in the second half, and 8 in the fourth quarter, when the Jazz trimmed that double-digit deficit to 6 points.
Luckily for Stevens, his Celtics held on, even with his former player making that a difficult task.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him. Man! And he was good when I coached him,” Stevens said.
“I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I’m proud of him. Again, I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy, when he was a junior in high school and he was a good tennis player and nobody was recruiting him. And it was like, ‘You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody’s looking at him. Nobody’s even in the building.’ It was probably a good decision, in retrospect. He’s awfully good.”
Said Hayward, “That’s one thing that he always did when I was in college, we moved the basketball from side to side and usually when you do that you get a good shot. They ran out on us there in that game a little bit and we dug ourselves too deep of a hole.”
Before the game, Hayward said he was still surprised that Stevens left Butler this summer to coach in the NBA.
“I went out to eat with him about a month earlier and we were talking about Butler and how their season was going to be and who was going to score for them and who was going to be their big guy inside and different things like that,” Hayward said.
Did Hayward think Stevens might ever coach in the NBA?
“Well, he told us that he’d never leave Butler for another college school, and I guess he was true to his word on that,” Hayward said.
It’s well known that Stevens takes losing hard, but at Butler, Hayward said, “We didn’t lose very much.”
Yet the Celtics and Jazz entered Wednesday night with 0-4 records as two of four winless teams in the NBA, the others Washington and Denver.
“We’re in the same boat as they are right now, as far as the Jazz,” Hayward said. “Losing is never fun and he always told us to never form a habit of it.”
Hayward said he firmly believes Stevens will have success in the NBA.
“He’s constantly learning and asking questions,” Hayward said. “I think that will help him out in this league.”
Hayward also said that he hasn’t given any NBA advice to Stevens.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Hayward said. “I definitely didn’t give him any advice. We’re going to play them, so I didn’t want to tell him too much.”
The team’s 289-game home sellout streak ended Wednesday, when the attendance was 17,130, short of the capacity 18,624.
The streak began on opening night in the 2007-08 season, when the Celtics Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen played their first game together.
It spanned 51 playoff games and 238 regular season games, including the home opener this season.
Undrafted free agent rookie point guard Phil Pressey made his NBA debut when he entered the game with 3:41 in the first quarter.
At that point, the Celtics were trailing, 20-10.
But the ball movement improved immediately, and Pressey, whose father Paul was a former Celtics assistant coach, picked up quick three assists and a steal as the Celtics went on a 13-6 run to end the quarter.
“We don’t do some things as well with him out there, but we do a lot of things better so I thought I’d give him a shot,” Stevens said.
Said Pressey, “It was exciting. I got a feel for the game, and the more I play, the easier it became.”
Jordan Crawford started the game and handled more of the point guard duties as Avery Bradley, who had been filling that role, moved to shooting guard, his natural position.
Bradley entered the game having turned the ball over a team-high 15 times, but he recorded just two, and the Celtics had just 15, short of their league-worst average of 21.
In all, the Celtics’ ball-handling improved, in part because of Pressey, but in part because Bradley wasn’t handling the ball as much as before.
“Avery is a lot better off the ball,” forward Brandon Bass said. “Tonight showed it, we got a win.”
Faverani up, down
Rookie center Vitor Faverani started but played just 6 minutes in the first half and none in the second. He grabbed three rebounds but missed all four of his shots. In the second half, Stevens started rookie center Kelly Olynyk, who finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds. “And when I told Vitor that Kelly was starting, Vitor put his arm around Kelly and was talking to him,” Stevens said. “I really like Vitor. Vitor is all-in.” . . . After not playing in any of the previous three games entering Wednesday night, forward Kris Humphries he checked in midway through the second quarter. He promptly hit a jumper, his only points of the night.