The Celtics did not score a basket in the final three minutes, 40 seconds, and that came on a goaltend. The last field goal that actually went through the net for Boston happened at the 5:43 mark, yet the Celtics held on.
Much of the thanks goes to Paul Pierce, who scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter, and Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green, who each scored 16 points off the bench. The Jazz got strong play inside from Al Jefferson, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Paul Millsap, who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Fourth quarter, :12.7, Celtics 96-93, : Somehow, despite solid games for Jefferson and Millsap on the interior, neither big man touched the ball in the post for the Jazz on their crucial possession.
Mo Williams missed a wild shot, after which Pierce hit two free throws that should have iced it when Millsap missed a layup. But Green came up with the rebound and traveled, giving Utah new life.
Fourth quarter, :32.3, Celtics 94-93: Jefferson was quiet for more than three quarters, but he suddenly turned it on with the game on the line. Jefferson scored seven points in a three-minute stretch and assisted on Utah’s only other field goal to help the Jazz pull even.
Garnett split a pair of free throws to give Boston the lead, but after Utah resumed possession, it was down to the final minute.
Fourth quarter, 2:53, Celtics 93-90: Chances are this was the type of game Rivers had in mind when he talked about how excited he was about his bench. Boston’s reserves had combined for 46 points with nearly three minutes left in the game and played a big role in the Celtics shooting 52 percent from the floor.
Millsap, Jefferson and the Jazz would not go away, though. Millsap and Jefferson had an answer for every Celtics bucket, and while trading baskets would not be a bad thing for the Celtics, they could make it easier on themselves by getting a stop or two.
Fourth quarter, 5:20, Celtics 88-84: Green has been criticized for being too nice. Once he showed a little meanness, he got hit with a technical foul.
Green exploded to the hoop for a tomahawk dunk over Jefferson, but as he came down he stared at Jefferson a little too long for the referee’s liking. Green was hit with a tech, but in a sign that the basketball gods were watching, Mo Williams clanked the free throw.
Honestly, if anybody out there went through what Green went through to get back on the court, wouldn’t they give a little bit of an extended staredown to the guy they dunked on?
Fourth quarter, 7:36, Celtics 82-76: Rondo was still stuck to the bench, but Lee and Barbosa carried on ably in his absence. Lee chipped in several nice defensive plays and tipped in a miss over Millsap and Favors. Barbosa sprinted past his defender to draw a fastbreak foul and a layup on the next possession. Their energy was contagious, as Garnett put the ball on the floor and bulled to the hoop in a way he has not done regularly in years.
Utah still dominated the rebounding battle 40-26 but the Celtics had actually pulled ahead in points in the paint 40-38, thanks largely to the Jazz’ 13 turnovers giving Boston all those extra possessions. The Celtics had committed only seven turnovers.
End of third quarter, Celtics lead 73-70: Rondo returned to the bench, setting off a cheer from the Garden crowd. The official word was that he rolled his right ankle and would try to play. He was outside the Celtics’ huddle at the end of the quarter, though, acting as though he was not coming in.
If Rondo cannot return or is ineffective, the Celtics will need more of what Pierce contributed in the quarter. Pierce scored 15 of the Celtics’ 29 points in the frame, which turned out to be just enough to stay ahead of the Jazz and Hayward, who dropped a team-high 10 points in the quarter.
Third quarter, 3:34, Celtics 66-60: The Celtics could have big problems if Rondo missed a lot of time. Before he limped to the locker room with head trainer Ed Lacerte, Rondo had assisted on 10 straight Celtics baskets. That was a quick way to keep his assist streak going.
Barbosa scored two slashing buckets in Rondo’s place, but there is no doubt anybody on the Celtics is a downgrade from Rondo over a longer period.
Third quarter, 4:55, game tied 60-60: Rondo came down funny on a drive to the hoop and came up hobbling. he had to leave the game, so we will keep you posted on his status.
Third quarter, 6:45, Jazz 56-54: A blase third quarter gave way to a flurry of action, and not all of it was good for the Celtics. Pierce went on a personal 5-0 run to give the Celtics a three-point lead, but within a minute of game action the Jazz responded with a layup by Millsap and a trey by Hayward.
Jefferson, Millsap and Favors were terrorizing Boston inside. Those three big men played together in stretches and were all in line for possible double-doubles. They were a major reason the Jazz had 30 points in the paint and a 32-21 advantage on the glass.
Halftime, Jazz lead 46-44: After about 11 minutes in which everything went pretty well for Boston, the Celtics saw things go downhill quickly.
The Garden crowd was rocking after Rondo found Wilcox for the pair’s second alley-oop hook-up of the game, but with more than two minutes left in the first half the Celtics pretty much went to the locker room early. They did not score again in the quarter while the Jazz ended with seven unanswered points. A Marvin Williams 3-pointer and Jefferson tip-in knotted the score, and Mo Williams’ driving floater gave Utah the lead with a second remaining.
Halfway done with the game, Rondo was exactly halfway to his 10-assist milestone, for those fans who care about that stuff.
The stats that mattered were rebounds, which Utah controlled 24-17, and second-chance points, of which the Jazz had nine points. Millsap and Favors were both in double figures while six Celtics players had six points or more.
Second quarter, 2:58, Celtics 42-37: Pierce’s free-falling shooting percentage has been troublesome, but he emerged in a close game early to give Boston a couple of big baskets. He knocked down a baseline jumper as he was fouled for a three-point play to extend the Celtics’ lead to four points, and hit one of two from the line a minute later to help the Celtics maintain their lead.
Rondo was off and running, literally, after his helper to Garnett. He found Wilcox with a lob dunk on a very similar fastbreak play and was up to four assists pretty quickly.
Second quarter, 5:48, Celtics 34-31: It took almost a quarter and a half for Rondo to record his first assist, but it finally came in highlight fashion.
For whatever reason, Foye decided to retreat to cover Lee in the corner on the break, rather than to stop Rondo with the ball, forcing the second man back to sprint at Rondo. That was all the opening Rondo needed to toss an oop to a streaking Garnett for the slam.
The march to the foul line continued for Favors, meanwhile. He was headed to the stripe for foul shots Nos. 11 and 12 on the night. If he could hit them (he was shooting 60 percent for the game and is a 65 percent shooter on the season) he could have the workings of a career night.
Second quarter, 8:51, Jazz 28-27: Barbosa invited the Celtics to hop on his back, if either they or the Jazz could catch him. Barbosa scored seven straight points for Boston to pull the score even at 25-25, and he had an opportunity to extend that streak even farther. Barbosa was fouled and went to the free throw line with a chance to give Boston its first lead since early in the game, but he missed both freebies and the Jazz retook the lead on a free throw by Favors, who was effective in getting to the line in the early going but not necessarily effective at converting his foul shots.
Favors had six free throw attempts but only three makes. Still, Favors had as many free throw attempts as Boston did as a team.
End of first quarter, Jazz lead 25-20: The Celtics’ second unit did a solid job of using its energy to get the team back into the game. Then they got careless.
Chris Wilcox tip-dunked a miss and Leandro Barbosa hit two free throws to cut Boston’s deficit to three points. Then Courtney Lee committed a foolish foul on Randy Foye, who was attempting an off-balance floater at the first-quarter buzzer. Foye’s free throws put Utah back up by five points.
Millsap ended the first quarter with eight points, four rebounds — half as many as Boston had as a team — and two blocked shots.
First quarter, 2:24, Jazz 19-12: Good or bad, the Celtics typically get back on defense. Apparently, their dedication to that basic premise took a holiday.
Marvin Williams and Hayward beat the Celtics players back down the court on consecutive possessions, leading to a basket by Williams and a layup by Millsap off a feed from Hayward. Millsap was off to a strong start, using his quickness against Bass to score eight of Utah’s first 19 points.
Almost 10 minutes into the action, Rondo had not recorded an assist and the Celtics were 6-for-15 from the field. Utah owned the rebounding battle 11-4.
First quarter, 5:55, Jazz 8-6: Jefferson gave everyone a sneak peek at what he does well and what he does not so well. He flipped home one of his patented push-shots and grabbed four rebounds in the opening minutes, but he also had a role in all three Utah turnovers. He might be a better passer, in Rivers’ opinion, but dishing and taking care of the ball will never be a strong point of his game.
7:16 p.m.: When the Jazz see a visit to Boston on their schedule from now on, they may want to brace themselves for a long night a few days before.
When Utah visited Boston last year, the Jazz were three days removed from a quadruple-overtime loss to the Hawks. This time, they are coming off a triple-overtime win over the Raptors on Monday in Toronto.
Rather than wear out the Jazz players, the team was in good spirits during its two-day stay in Boston. Maybe they are just punch-drunk.
The projected starters appear below.
7:06 p.m.: Nary a Celtics fan would change a thing about the 2007 trade that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston, but had their been some way to pull it off while keeping Al Jefferson, they would have done so in a heartbeat.
There was no way Minnesota would have made such a trade without the then-23-year-old big man, though, so while the Celtics walked away with the 2008 title, they watched Jefferson blossom during his three years with the Wolves. After a whole bunch of losing in Minnesota, Jefferson was thrilled to be traded to Utah in 2010, anticipating his streak of seasons without going to the postseason would come to an end.
The Jazz went 39-43 in his first season in Salt Lake City, however, and Jefferson must have wondered if he would ever experience the playoffs. When the Jazz snuck in as the eighth seed a year ago, Jefferson cherished the experience, even if the Spurs swiftly ended it with a four-game sweep.
The last time the Jazz came to Boston, Celtics coach Doc Rivers went out to dinner with the now-nine-year veteran. There was no such dinner date this time.
“Screw Al,” Rivers joked. “He didn’t have the time. He’s too good now.”
Jefferson averaged a career-high 2.2 assists per game last season. That number was Scott Skiles-esque for a player never known for his passing skills, which have slightly improved every year in Utah.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” Rivers said. “The thing I never thought I’d say about Al, he’s becoming a better passer and I’m very happy about that for him. He just keeps working on his game. I think he hit that one little stretch where he lost a lot, and I think you can see he’s fought through that now. Making that playoff run — and he was a big part of it last year — has kind of re-stoked him and it’s good.”
8 a.m. ET: Back above .500 and quietly winners of four of their last five games, the Celtics return home from their two-game road trip to give the Utah Jazz their only taste of TD Garden cooking this season.
Al Jefferson, who has blossomed into one of the league’s best offensive big men, leads the up-and-down Jazz into Boston. After beginning the season with a win over the Mavericks, the Jazz dropped three straight and needed three overtimes in Toronto on Monday to even their record at 4-4. This is the second game in a four-game East Coast road trip for the Jazz, so the Celtics will have a chance to capitalize on their road-weary legs.
Rajon Rondo will look to extend his streak of games with double-digit assists to 32 games after he barely kept the streak alive Monday in Chicago. If Celtics coach Doc Rivers keeps to form, the starting lineup will stay a secret until shortly before gametime.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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