BOSTON — Most people try to break habits. When you're Jae Crowder, it might be a good thing to make a habit of hitting game-clinching threes at home.
Crowder hit the crucial shot to give the Celtics their final lead en route to a 100-95 win over the Utah Jazz, their 11th straight at home.
"It was a heck of an executing game," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "They were making plays, we were making plays and we were just fortunate enough to get those loose balls off the block and the steal to seal it."
After pounding on the Jazz’s door and asking for a lead throughout the third quarter, the Celtics finally regained control to open the fourth. A slew of transition players were capped off by a Tyler Zeller fastbreak layup to take a 77-76 lead. The 9-0 run gave the Celtics their first lead since the opening of the first quarter.
But the Jazz never backed down. When Rudy Gobert checked in halfway through the fourth quarter, his presence was immediately felt. Gobert was all over the glass and kept getting to the free throw line to slow the Celtics’ momentum.
Former Butler guard Shelvin Mack had a few crucial floaters in the paint to keep the Jazz ahead. It looked like the Celtics had their chance to take control with 1:30 left when Jared Sullinger stripped a Rudy Gobert layup attempt. The Celtics pounded down in transition, but it failed when Isaiah Thomas drove the lane and threw a slick pass to the empty space in the corner.
The Jazz responded when Mack drilled a three to take a two-point lead after the 12th lead change in the quarter. After a loose ball hit Favors’ foot, Stevens was given the dangerous opportunity to draw up an ATO play.
It did not disappoint.
Thomas drove around the paint to the weak side, only to rifle a 180 no scope to BAE Crowder. Crowder immediately pulled up for an easy three to restore the lead.
The Jazz came out on the next play posting up Gordon Hayward on Avery Bradley. Hayward worked him toward the middle and spun for the shot. Bradley vehemently disagreed with this decision, stuffing the shot and blazing down court with the ball to draw the foul. He missed his second free throw, but Amir Johnson somehow escaped an offensive foul as he went behind Rudy Gobert to get the board and help the Celtics get a 99-95 lead with 12.8 seconds left.
"He had been guarding Hood most of the game and had done a great job on Hood," Stevens said of Bradley. "We knew they would be going to one of those guys and we felt he would be our best bet on Gordon. He guessed right on the turnaround and blocked the shot and came out with a loose ball."
When Johnson then caught a Rodney Hood miss from downtown, the Celtics clinched their 11th home win in a row.
The Bradley block was the Celtics' 13th of the night. He was the ninth player on the team to record a block, the most by the team in six years. Even Stevens couldn't believe it.
"Really? Wow. If you would've told me we blocked more shots than them, I would’ve been surprised. I thought Jordan Mickey gave us great time and lift with that group."
Mickey saw his first minutes with the second unit this season, playing 7:07 in the second quarter as part of an 11-0 run. He scored a career-high tying three points, three rebounds and two blocks during that run. Mickey spent a lot of time on Rudy Gobert, who made him look like Isaiah Thomas in longer shorts.
But Mickey showed decent positional awareness for his first serious minutes in the NBA. Although he even collided with Evan Turner on a pick-and-roll, he remained active and was able to make an overall positive impact.
He showed up locked in after Stevens texted him Monday morning and told him to be ready to go at any moment.
"You know, I got the text early this morning and I read it about ten times before I even got here," Mickey said. "I was just trying to prepare myself to be ready for the opportunity and you never know when you are going to be able to get in or when you are going to get that opportunity, it happened to be kind of early in the night and I was excited about it."
He was locked in to running one-five high pick-and-rolls as well as short runs on the baseline to try to create space from Gobert. His best moment on offense came at the 4:46 mark. Mickey hung under the hoop while there was a loose ball scramble at half court.
The Celtics came up with the ball and he was ready to catch and slam. When he caught the pass and turned to see Gobert charging at him, he wisely stepped through Lyle's path and threw down a yam.
The highlight of his spell came on the next play with an impressive stuff on Gordon Hayward’s phenomenal attempt to put young Mickey on the front page of Reddit.
Mickey denies Hayward: https://t.co/jX6zEzXIcf— KWAPT (@KWAPT) March 1, 2016
Mickey looked like exactly how you would expect a pivot man to look in their first rotation minutes: Energetic, erratic and quick to make a play. It will take him more opportunities like this to be an effective rotation player, but the early signs of a useful role player were on display Monday night.
Marcus Smart showed some notable playmaking ability from several spots on the floor. Smart is usually quick to launch a three off the catch. But with Rodney Hood closing in too quickly, Smart calmly upfaked him away. Smart then drove into Trey Lyles’ chest with the corner of his eye tracking Zeller rolling on thw baseline.
Right when Lyles had to commit to Smart leaping up for a floater, Marcus rifled a dump down to Zeller for the finish.
Evan Turner once again had to stretch out his role to keep the Celtics’ second unit in the game.
This time, he had to cover Trey Lyles for a few minutes starting at the 5:42 mark with the second unit in the third and did a nice job keeping him from scoring by putting relentless pressure to front him and Turner took control of both ends for the Celtics in the second, scoring eight points while applying significant defensive pressure.
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Jae Crowder or Gordon Hayward. Who you got?
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