ALL THAT JAZZ AND A LOT OF EMBIID
Gordon Hayward got a cold reception in Utah. He was booed every time he touched the ball, and his Boston Celtics left town with a loss.
In Philadelphia, Joel Embiid repeatedly stepped to the free throw line with one thought in mind during critical moments of the Philadelphia 76ers’ overtime victory against the Charlotte Hornets.
“Got to make them,” Embiid said. “They call me ‘clutch’ for a reason, so got to make them.”
Joe Ingles matched his career high with 27 points and added a season-high seven assists to help the Jazz beat the Celtics, 123-115, on Friday night in Hayward’s return to Salt Lake City.
Embiid, meanwhile, was 14 for 16 from the line between the fourth quarter and overtime to help ice the 76ers’ 133-132 victory Friday night. He had 42 points and 18 rebounds.
Hayward had 13 points and seven assists in 25 minutes during his first game back in Utah since leaving the Jazz as a free agent to sign with the Celtics after the 2016-17 season. He broke his left ankle in Boston’s opener last season.
The star forward spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Jazz after they drafted him ninth overall in 2010. He averaged 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists for Utah, but took the hostile reaction from Jazz fans in stride.
“I kind of expected some of that,” Hayward said. “They were booing me from the get-go, so it’s part of the game.”
Boston trimmed a 20-point deficit to four by the fourth quarter. Playing without injured Kyrie Irving, the Celtics closed within four on multiple occasions late in the period, the final time on a 3-pointer from Marcus Smart that made it 111107 with 2:19 left.
Rudy Gobert quickly answered with a layup that pushed the lead back to six. Jayson Tatum followed by missing back-to-back layups that could have cut the deficit again, and Boston never got closer.
Jae Crowder finally slammed the door on the comeback with a corner 3 that gave Utah a 117-109 lead with 47.7 seconds left.
Utah coach Quin Snyder thought his team turned a corner by hanging tough down the stretch against the Celtics.
“Our team has not been able to handle successes during games at times,” Snyder said. “We’ve lost focus sometimes when we’ve hit shots. Teams are going to come back on you, but you can’t make it easy on them.”
The Hornets fought back from a 21-point deficit and led by five with 1:18 remaining in regulation before the Sixers forced extra time. Kemba Walker scored 19 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets.
Embiid challenged the Hornets’ defense as they attempted a comeback victory and focused on drawing contact. Hornets starting center Cody Zeller fouled out in regulation after committing five fouls in the fourth.
“It’s tough keeping him off the free throw line just because he is so physical,” Zeller said. “He can shoot it from three, play off the dribble, he’s obviously a wide body in the post, so those are the toughest guys to defend that can play kind of play at every spot on the court.”
Sixers center Joel Embiid hangs on to the rim after a dunk.