SALT LAKE CITY — On nights like this, when the Utah Jazz share the basketball on offense and play a determined brand of defense, it's certainly easy to see them reaching postseason play.
The key, of course, is doing it consistently, night after night. And in an 82-game, regular-season grind, that's easier said than done.
But one night after suffering a disappaointing double-digit setback against the Wizards on the East Coast, the Jazz returned home and bounced back with a solid performance on both ends of the court to take a vital 111-93 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night at Vivint Arena.
Derrick Favors had a strong all-around game with 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists while Gordon Hayward had 22 points and Rudy Gobert contributed 11 points with 15 rebounds and four blocks. Raul Neto and Rodney Hood were also in double digits for the Jazz with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Favors said the key was having a short memory after Thursday night's 103-89 loss at Washington.
"We’ve got to forget about it," Favors said of that loss in their first game back after the All-Star break. "That’s the good thing about the NBA. You’ve got a game the next night."
Utah coach Quin Snyder said that Favors, who had just 11 points and five boards in a foul-plagued performance Thursday, is capable of coming up with superb performances like the one he turned in Friday if he can just learn what it takes to be consistent.
"It was a tough game. They’re a good team," Favors said. "We just wanted to come out and be aggressive, set the tone early and get a win."
On staying big when Boston went small: "We didn’t downsizse for them," Favors said. "We just played our game and got a win."The win puts Utah (27-27) back at .500 in the Western Conference playoff chase, while Boston, which came into Friday night's clash as the third-best team in the East, slipped to 32-24 with the setback.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was mighty impressed with what he's seen out of the Jazz this season.
"I think first and foremost, they're long and athletic as heck," he said. "When you look at Favors, (he) is more of a traditional ... probably four (power forward), but now in this day and age, he would be playing the five (center) on a lot of teams. Gobert is the ultimate game-changer at the rim. With him in the lineup, they're fifth in the league defensively.
"Gobert’s presence over the last few weeks or month or however long he’s been back (from a knee injury) has really helped them.
"Hayward is a long guy. Hood’s a long guy," Stevens said. "Down the line, they cover a lot of ground, they're really well-coached. They’re disciplined in their schemes. They do what they do and they do it really well."
Stevens, who was Hayward's college coach at Butler University in a magical season that took Butler all the way to the NCAA title game, had some special praise for the sixth-year Jazz forward.
"Gordon’s just having another great year," the Celtics' coach said. "He’s improved every year. He’s just doing really well. I’m happy for him."
Isaiah Thomas scored a game-high 25 points for Boston, but he shot just 7 of 19 from the field. Jae Crowder added 17 points and Avery Bradley had a dozen for the Celtics.
Utah's defense, which was such a difference-maker last season when the Jazz went 19-10 after the All-Star break, isn't quite at that level yet.
But Utah coach Quin Snyder says his squad is steadily getting better on that end of the court.
"I think there's been a gradual improvement with our team defensively," he said. "... I think we still have to be very committed and focused. The (All-Star) break hurt us in terms of our focus, I thought, defensively.
"We're not where we were last year, but our personnel's different. Dante (Exum) made us a little unique on the ball where with Trey (Burke) and Raul (Neto), we're just not as impactful on the ball. ... That puts more pressure on our wings. It becomes a little bit of a question of depth, too.
"I think we've been asking Gordon and Rodney to do so much that that can have an impact on them defensively," Snyder said.
It's not often that a team shoots better from behind the 3-point line than it does from the foul line, but that's exactly what the Jazz did in the first half.
Utah was a superb 9 of 13 (69 percent) from beyond the arc but shot just 53 percent (9 of 17) from the free-throw line on its way to a 54-49 halftime lead.
And then when the Jazz staged an impressive 15-2 run in the third quarter, it gave them a 17-point margin and they were never seriously threatened after that.
The Jazz stretched their lead to nine, 71-62, midway through the third period as Booker scored on a pair of putbacks sandwiched around an inside bucket by Favors, who muscled in a tough shot, was fouled and hit the subsequent free throw.
Then Hayward, who'd had a quiet first-half scoring night, hit a couple of foul shots and sailed down the lane for a dunk, and Booker soon slammed a dunk of his own, followed by another bucket by Favors to help Utah boost its lead to 17, 79-62.
Utah wound up taking an 11-point lead, 83-72, into the final period. Then when Boston pulled within seven, 83-76, early in the fourth quarter, Gobert, Hayward and Favors combined forces as the Jazz went on a 16-5 run to push their lead back to 17 points, 98-81, with 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
And at that point, as the late, great Hot Rod Hundley used to say, this one was in the ol' refrigerator.
Neto did not miss a shot in the first half, going 5 for 5 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers for a team-leading 12 points. Favors and Hood checked in with eight first-half points apiece, and Chris Johnson contributed six on the strength of a couple of 3s off the bench. Gobert collected nine first-half rebounds and three blocked shots.
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