FILE: Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving celebrates a basket during the second half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Phoenix. Irving did not play against the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
SALT LAKE CITY — Boston’s leading scorer Kyrie Irving was out of the lineup for personal reasons for Friday night’s game at Vivint Arena, which was nothing new for the Utah Jazz, who have missed the opposing team’s best player in several games already this year.
It happened earlier this week against Toronto when Kawhi Leonard was out, last week when Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns was out and the week before when New Orleans played without Anthony Davis.
Utah coach Quin Snyder said it’s not necessarily an advantage when the opposing team’s top player has to sit out. Sometimes it allows other players to step up and the team actually plays better. He said it happened at Minnesota where Derrick Rose came in to score a career-high 50 points and pointed out it happened against Boston last year in Salt Lake when Boston beat the Jazz while missing several starters. Also, the Jazz beat the Celtics in Boston after Epke Udoh stepped in for an injured Rudy Gobert in a Jazz victory.
“The thing about the NBA right now is there’s so much talent and so much depth that when teams have players out — obviously it’s harder over a longer period — they’ll play better,” Snyder said. “I think guys are ready to play, especially teams that pride themselves on having depth and having a good bench.”
It didn’t work out for the Celtics, however, in the 123-115 loss. Without Irving, the Celtics started Terry Rozier, who played so well for the Celts in last year’s playoffs but hasn’t had a chance to play much this year. Rozier ended up as Boston’s top scorer, but his 22 points weren’t enough to bring his team a victory.
NO DIFFERENCE: Friday’s game marked the third time this week that the Jazz played a team coming off a game the night before while the Jazz were resting at home.
It would seem to be a big advantage for the Jazz, who lost to Toronto by 13, but beat Dallas by 15, but Snyder said as far as he was concerned, it’s not a big deal.
“Fatigue always plays into NBA games, like injuries,” he said. “We’ve had a long stretch of games where we’ve been on the road, so it’s good to be home. But I don’t think it plays a role.”
SLOW GO FOR THABO: Thabo Sefolosha has played sparingly this season, partly because he had to miss the first five games because of an NBA-imposed drug suspension and also because he’s still working himself back into shape after missing three months of last season with a knee injury. Before Friday night Sefalosha had played just nine total minutes in two games and tallied one point, two assists and three rebounds.
Snyder says it make take some time for Sefolosha to get back to his old self.
“The first thing for Thabo — he hasn’t played the last six months – is trying to get physically healthy,” Snyder said. “There’s rust even if you don’t play for a week if you miss a couple of games. His timing and the things he’s capable of doing –he’ll have opportunities we’ve also had some other guys play well. The things that’s so important for him and it’s a compliment to his character, is his ability to impact a team in a multitude of ways with his experience.”
JAZZ NOTES: Going into Friday’s game, the Jazz had a 39-57 record all time against the Celtics but were 27-21 at home. . . . Last season, the Jazz won 107-95 at th TD Garden, but lost 97-94 at home in late March on a 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown with 0.3 seconds remaining . . . The Jazz head out on a week-long, five-game road trip this weekend with the first game Monday night in Memphis against a Grizzlies team that has already beaten Utah twice in Utah . . . The Jazz and Celtics will play again in Boston next Saturday night.