BOSTON — Ty Corbin had no words to really offer, beyond the obvious.
“Tough loss,” he said. “Tough loss. Eight points in the second quarter. I thought we got off to a pretty good start, but eight points in the second quarter costs you the ball game.”
If Corbin sounded like a broken record, it could be because this season is already getting repetitive for the Utah Jazz. With Wednesday’s loss to the Celtics, the Jazz fell to 0-5 — the same place the Celtics would have been had they not recovered from a somnambulant start to earn a 97-87 victory at TD Garden.
The Celtics, like the Jazz, have gained a lot of experience with disappointment in a relatively short amount of time. When the Celtics fell behind 16-3 before the first quarter was half over, the less-than-sellout home crowd collectively rolled its eyes. When the Jazz gave up 27 points while scoring just eight of their own in the second quarter, the Jazz fans watching at home on ROOT probably decided it was time to run to the store for some 3 percent beer.
By the end, the game offered everything followers of these two rebuilding franchises have come to expect just five games into the 2013-14 campaign. The Celtics built a 25-point lead that should have been insurmountable, only to watch the Jazz nearly surmount it by pulling within six points in the final minutes. Blown leads and missed opportunities weren’t counted as official statistics, otherwise they would have broken the scoreboard.
Instead of faltering like they had in the previous four games, however, the Celtics made a few key plays — aided by a couple of huge shots by veteran forward Brandon Bass — to hand the Jazz their second loss in two nights.
“I don’t think we ever got down,” Jeff Green said. “I think we continued to stay positive because after watching film, we saw the things we can correct to get to this point where we can win. It was all self-corrections that we had to make. We learned from our mistakes and we came in knowing we’re playing a team that’s similar to our position. We just wanted to come out and continue to build off the last few games.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens earned his first victory as an NBA head coach, although his team probably made those 48 minutes feel longer than the his six years at Butler. After the Celtics blew a 22-point lead over the Bucks in the home opener last Friday, Stevens glumly admitted, “I don’t feel very good about life right now.” His mood was noticeably better on Wednesday, but it had been improving ever since his team offered a promising showing in Monday’s loss in Memphis.
“Winning’s more fun than losing,” Stevens said. “But at the same time, I think we played two pretty good games back-to-back, so that’s the most positive thing moving forward. And hopefully, we feel better about ourselves as we move forward.”
Wednesday’s fourth quarter was noteworthy for the Celtics as much as for what they didn’t do as for what they did do. They did commit some ill-timed turnovers, such as Kelly Olynyk committing a three-second violation and Bass throwing the ball away just after Utah’s Gordon Hayward hit a jumper to cut Boston’s lead to eight. What they did not do, though, was let those mistakes snowball, as they did in losses to the Bucks, Pistons and Grizzlies. Jordan Crawford responded to Bass’ turnover by hitting a runner to slow the Jazz run, and Bass scored six of his nine fourth-quarter points in the final four minutes to help the Celtics protect their lead.
“I definitely thought about putting it upon my shoulders,” Bass said. “I kind of did that in our last home game and it didn’t go our way. So, [Wednesday] I definitely wanted to use my teammates and move the ball more, and just kind of do things to get us over the hump. The ball was going our way and the basketball gods were with us, so it was cool to get the win.”
Even for the Celtics, who might be better served in the long run losing as many games as possible to collect the most draft lottery balls, Wednesday’s game was a needed reprieve. It is one thing to say a team is better off losing and another thing to actually endure it. For at least a little while, they could remember what a win felt like and enjoy it. Corbin and the Jazz think they still know what that’s like, but the feeling must get a little less familiar with every loss.