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Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward’s minute restriction lifted, Jazz happy he’s healthy

BOSTON — Boston Celtics wing Gordon Hayward has no minute restriction on Saturday against the Utah Jazz, despite playing 39 minutes on the front end of a back-to-back on Friday against the Toronto Raptors.

According to Brad Stevens, Hayward’s restriction was first lifted against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“I’ve been told I don’t need to think about it anymore,” Stevens said. ” … Now, he’s going to have games where he plays 25 again, but at the end of the day he’s not restricted, which is good. The whole idea of a minutes restriction is to get yourself back to the point where you physically can handle the demands of the season and do so without taking steps back. The encouraging part is it was handled well by our training staff and him, as frustrating as it may have been for him.”

Hayward’s process of fully returning to the court took over a year — he first injured his ankle in October of 2018. On Friday, he had some encouraging moments beyond just the 39 minutes he played. His 15 points included some big baskets down the stretch, and he operated as the lead ball-handler at times, which Stevens said helped get Irving going.

“I think he’s used to that,” Stevens said. “He’s used to playing in the pick-and-roll at the top of the key, he’s used to entering offense and those type of things. And I think when you watch — first of all when you watch Utah play and they have Ingles and Mitchell and Rubio, they just rotate those guys and do it. And Gordon, that’s the way they played with Gordon. So, like, yesterday it allowed us to get Kyrie off the ball to get him with a live dribble. It allows us to run different actions where we can set Kyrie up off of action, or Terry. And I think that’s important to be able to do that with your guys that aren’t necessarily considered point guards.”

The Jazz will get their second crack at their former star on Saturday, after beating the Irving-less Celtics in Utah.

“Any time a player that’s as good as Gordon is, we miss him,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “That’s a credit to him. We’re happy in particular that he’s healthy, but for our team, it’s just a question of everybody pulling together to get where we want to go. And I think that’s the nature of our team.”

Other pre-game notes:

– It’s … a little unclear what’s happening here.

– Both Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum have struggled a bit in their second seasons, after looking like superstar rookies.

Stevens isn’t worried.

“I don’t know if it’s as much about them adjusting as recognizing that everybody’s adjusting to them,” Stevens said. “I think that’s just part of it. Great is great for a reason, and when everybody’s going after you every single night that’s tough. Both these guys have shown the mettle to handle that and shown one heck of a level of play for their ages.”

– Stevens was asked if the emotion of Friday’s game took anything out of his team.

“We got our butts kicked last Friday night,” Stevens said, smiling. “So we’d better have some emotion to us.”

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