BOSTON — Brad Stevens handled his first win as an NBA coach the way he has handled everything else since he made the jump from college to the pros.
After his Boston Celtics held off the Utah Jazz 97-87 Wednesday night, Stevens accepted congratulations from a couple of his players on the floor, then turned and headed for the locker room.
“Winning’s more fun than losing,” Stevens said after the Celtics (1-4) survived the battle between two of the four winless teams starting play Wednesday.
“But at the same time,” he added, “I think we played two pretty good games back to back (Memphis on Monday). That’s the most positive thing moving forward.”
As far as celebrating his first victory, Stevens said, “Wyc (owner Grousback) was nice enough to grab the ball for me; that was really nice. Yeah, I’m going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes and then I’m going to start watching Orlando (Friday’s opponent) and trying to figure them out.”
The former Butler coach made a starting lineup change and expanded his rotation Wednesday. He moved guard Jordan Crawford into the lineup in favor of a less-than-thrilled Gerald Wallace.
The results were anything but immediate, as the Jazz (0-5) went 8-for-10 from the floor to take a 16-3 lead 5:11 into the game.
But the Celtics caught the visitors in the second quarter, holding Utah to eight points to lead by 16 at the break. They led by as many as 25 before the Jazz, playing for the second straight night, charged back.
There were fears of a repeat of last Friday night, when the Celtics blew a 22-point, second-half lead and lost to Milwaukee. This time, though, Utah could get no closer than six.
“You could tell we were all a little on edge at the end of that game,” Stevens said. “That’s what happens after Friday (the Milwaukee loss); that’s why it’s important to try to find a way to win this one.”
Wallace wound up being part of the second-quarter explosion. He came off the bench with eight points and seven rebounds in 12 minutes in the first half and finished with nine points and nine rebounds. Crawford had seven points and four assists.
Forward Brandon Bass led the Celtics with 20 points, while forward Jeff Green had 16. Rookie forward Kelly Olynyk had 14 points and eight rebounds.
“It’s big for our team, especially right now,” Olynyk said. “Coming off four tough games, to get a win, we have that confidence and hopefully we can ride that and learn from that as a team.”
Swingman Gordon Hayward, who played for Stevens at Butler, had 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Jazz, who also got 22 points and eight rebounds from center Enes Kanter and 10 points and 14 boards from forward Derrick Favors.
“He’s a lot better than when I coached him, and he was good when I coached him,” Stevens said of Hayward, who wasn’t recruited by anyone but Butler coming out of high school. “I thought he was the best player in college at the time. He’s really improved. I’m proud of him.
“I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy and he was a junior in high school and he was a good tennis player and nobody was recruiting him.”
It was Boston’s sixth straight win over the Jazz, who lost to the “old” Celtics (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry) in Brooklyn on Tuesday and the “new” Celtics on Wednesday, in the battle of the winless teams.
“You had two hungry teams that needed a win,” Utah coach Ty Corbin said. “We got off to (a fast start), but we didn’t come out in the second quarter.
“You’ve got to keep fighting. You have to keep working.”
NOTES: The win was the Celtics’ first without Paul Pierce on the roster since April 17, 1998. … Before the game, G Gerald Wallace, not happy with going to the bench, told the Boston Globe, “I’ve always been a starter. I worked my tail off in the league to become a starter.” But coach Brad Stevens likes the way Wallace fits with the other bench players. … The Celtics, who have yet to play consecutive home games, visit the Orlando Magic on Friday and the Miami Heat on Saturday before starting a three-game homestand Monday night against Orlando. The Jazz wrap up their road trip by playing the Bulls in Chicago on Friday and the Raptors in Toronto on Saturday.