BOSTON (AP) — Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck went onto the court right after the final buzzer sounded to pull aside the game ball for coach Brad Stevens.
It took five games, but the Celtics finally helped Stevens earn his first NBA victory.
“I’m going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes, and then I’m going to start watching Orlando and trying to figure them out,” the first-year Celtics coach said after Boston beat the Utah Jazz, one of the league’s other winless teams, 97-87 on Wednesday night.
Brandon Bass scored 20 points and Jeff Green added 18 to lead Boston to its first win of the season. The game reunited Stevens, the former Butler coach, with Gordon Hayward, the Bulldogs star who took them to the 2010 NCAA championship game against Duke and just missed a shot from inside half court that would have won it.
“We exchanged greetings before the game,” said Hayward, who had 28 points and nine rebounds. “But being the competitors we are, we both wanted to win the basketball game.”
Now one of the two remaining winless teams in the NBA this season along with the Denver Nuggets, Utah trailed by 25 points in the third quarter and opened the fourth down 22 before scoring 17 of the next 20 points. Hayward had eight points, five rebounds and three assists in the fourth quarter, but the Jazz never got closer than six points.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him. And he was pretty good when I coached him,” Stevens said. “I was there when he was a puppy. … But I wish he would have backed off a little at the end.”
The attendance of 17,130 was about 1,500 fans short of a sellout, ending a streak of 289 games dating to the end of the 2006-07 season. That was the last game before the Celtics brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce for a New Big 3.
The trio helped Boston win the 2008 NBA title and took the Celtics back to the finals two years later. But the team was dismantled this summer when Garnett and Pierce were traded to the Brooklyn Nets and coach Doc Rivers left for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Stevens, who guided Butler to consecutive NCAA championship games, took over the Celtics — his first NBA experience as a coach or player. The rebuilding Celtics lost their first four games, including last week’s home opener in which they blew a 22-point lead.
But the Celtics held on in Stevens’ second game in front of the home crowd, thanks largely to a second quarter in which they outscored Utah 27-8 and turned a three-point deficit into a double-digit lead.
“Eight points in the second quarter. Eight points in the second quarter,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “That’s where we lost the game right there.”
Gerald Wallace had nine points and nine rebounds for Boston.
Derrick Favors had 10 points and 14 rebounds and Enes Kanter scored 22 points with eight boards for the Jazz, who open a season with five straight losses for the first time since 1974, when they were still in New Orleans.
“It’s a long year,” said Corbin, whose team goes to Chicago and Toronto. “We’re in a bad stretch right now, losing five games in a row. You’ve got two more tough ones on this road trip and you’re still shorthanded. But you know what, nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”
The Jazz opened a 16-3 lead in the first 5 minutes but Boston scored the next seven points and cut it to 26-23 by the end of the quarter. The Celtics made the first four baskets of the second to take the lead, and they scored 12 consecutive points at the end of the half to take a 16-point lead.
“You had two hungry teams that needed a win. We got off to” a fast start, forward Richard Jefferson said. “But we didn’t come out in the second quarter.”
It was 70-45 midway through the third quarter and 84-62 heading into the fourth before the Celtics missed eight of their next nine shots. Kanter made a layup to cut it to 89-83, but Bass made a jumper and Jared Sullinger made a baby hook with 3:16 to play to make it 93-83.
NOTES: The Celtics entered the night averaging 21 turnovers per game; they had 15. Utah averaged 19.8 turnovers and committed 22. … The Celtics avoided starting the season 0-5 for the first time since 1946, when they lost the first five games in franchise history. … The Jazz played the “old Celtics,” also known as the Brooklyn Nets, on Tuesday night and lost 104-88.