The Celtics played the Jazz without Avery Bradley (strained Achilles’ tendon) and Jae Crowder (person reasons) and then lost Jaylen Brown at halftime with a hip strain. But Boston did their best to cobble together an effort that made them look an awfully lot like Utah and came away with a win to improve to 2-1 on this current road trip. The Celtics led wire to wire and by as many as 23 points before holding off a Utah rally late.
Generally, the Jazz are a lock down defensive squad that also executes at high level on offense. Boston flipped the script and played some solid defense themselves, while shooting 59% on the night. It started right out of the gate, with the Celtics putting up 33 point first quarter on 78% shooting. Boston had it going inside and outside all night, as they also shot 43% from behind the arc for the game.
Isaiah Thomas led the way with 29 points and Al Horford added 16 and nine rebounds, but it was the Boston bench that stepped up the most. With Bradley and Crowder out, the Celtics got a big night from Gerald Green with 16 points on 7-8 shooting. When Brown went down, Boston turned to little-used James Young, who added 10 points on 4-7 shooting in 14 second half minutes. Kelly Olynyk was also big with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
And Marcus Smart continued to make a bunch of plays that don’t always shot up in the box score. He deflected a lot of passes, tipped balls and stayed attached to shooters. Smart was the primary defender for most of the game on Gordon Hayward, who scored 31 points on 10-19 shooting, but didn’t have his usual impact as a playmaker for Utah.
Hayward, who is the apple of many a Celtics fan’s eye as a free agent to be this summer, is a smooth player on offense. He rarely looks rushed and is equally as solid as a ball handler and passer as he is a scorer. Tonight he hit a variety of contested shots, but wasn’t always able to put the ball on the deck vs. Smart. That doesn’t mean much as far as Hayward’s value, as Smart is one of the best on ball defenders in the entire league.
The Jazz also got 22 points from George Hill, but the Utah bench was really outplayed all game as Boston held a 50 to 23 advantage in points from the reserves. The Celtics also held their own on the boards, until a late game flurry from Utah as the Jazz tried to rally.
With the win, the Celtics have now won nine of their last 10 games and improved to 35-19 on the season. They remain 2.5 games behind the Cavaliers, who won earlier in the day, and 2.5 games in front of the Wizards for second place in the Eastern Conference. Boston will look to complete a successful road trip on Monday vs the suddenly hot Dallas Mavericks, who have won eight of their last 11 games.