SALT LAKE CITY — All the talk before the game surrounded Gordon Hayward and his “homecoming” game against the Jazz Friday night. Lost in all the hoopla was a former Celtic playing for the Jazz in what was a big game for him against his former team.
Jae Crowder had played for Boston for three years before being dealt to Cleveland before last season, in part because the Celtics had Hayward, and then eventually ended up in Utah last February.
So Friday’s game was personal for Crowder too and he came up with a big performance that was key to Utah’s 123-115 victory.
Crowder finished with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including two of the biggest shots of the night when the Celtics were threatening to pull off another comeback victory like the night before in Phoenix when they overcame a 14-point deficit in the final four minutes.
The first big shot came with 3:51 left after the Celtics had pulled within four points and Crowder sank a 3-pointer from the right corner to push the lead back to seven. An even bigger shot came with 28 seconds left when he took a pass from Ricky Rubio and sank a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the Jazz up 117-109 and put the game away.
“Ricky did a good job of sucking in the defense and they collapsed on him and I was able to step into it,” Crowder said. “I knew we needed a shot to get us over the hump. I really wanted to make that shot and stepped right into it.”
Coach Quin Snyder praised several players after the game, Joe Ingles, Rubio and Derrick Favors in particular, but of Crowder’s shot he said, “Jae had maybe the biggest shot of the night. He really competed.”
Snyder and Crowder shared a big hug after the game and Snyder explained it afterward.2 comments on this story
“Jae deserves emotion from other people because he gives so much of it,” Snyder said. “He’s got a heartbeat you can feel and gives that to our team. His role has grown and grown, not just on the court, but his leadership and just how hard he plays.”
Crowder said he appreciates Snyder as a coach and for the support he gets.
“It means a lot, it means he has trust in me,” Crowder said. “I told him I appreciate it. That’s why I give maximum effort for him every night.”
As for Boston, Crowder still has some feelings about them letting him go after three seasons only to be replaced by Hayward.
When asked if the Celtics made a mistake by letting him go, Crowder was succinct.
“They know it — I’ll leave it at that.”