In a game without Marcus Morris and Al Horford, the Celtics went into the game with no all-stars against a Utah Jazz team that is in a dog fight for playoff position and absolutely could not drop a game like this against a team that was using rookies as half of their rotation. But these are the Celtics and they apparently have a monopoly on doing ridiculous things.
The first quarter was a game of runs, with the game tied at 5 apiece, the Celtics went on a 7-0 run led by an aggressive Jayson Tatum showed a poise and aggression that C’s fans have been begging for. He hit 3’s off screens, got to his sweet spots on the elbow, and even had an impressive finish on the pick and roll. The Jazz then returned a favor with a 13-0 run of their own highlighted by their trademark defense. Celtics began to file in their second unit hoping for a change of pace to get a different result, but the Jazz were able to hold on to a 6-point lead holding the Celtics to 31.8% shooting from the field.
The second quarter took an unexpected turn with the C’s offense finding its groove and the Jazz looking like a completely different team. The Celtics staggered Tatum with the 2nd unit and he immedialty went to work with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 28. Celtics then took their defense to another level with some surprising contributions by Abdel Nader who was able to give rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell a bunch of issues including a pretty steal and transition finish on the other end. After a barrage of three-pointers by Jaylen Brown, the Celtics were able to push their lead up to 41-32 and rode their momentum to a surprising 48-39 halftime lead. During that quarter the “Jay team” combined for 9-16 shooting and 22 points.
The Jazz came out strong defensively, and Mitchell looked re-energized after a slow 1st half scoring 10 straight points for the Jazz in one stretch highlighted by two questionable decisions by Jaylen Brown to go under the screens. On Boston’s side, Jaylen seemed up for the challenge against Mitchell himself getting 6 quick points of his own. The Jazz were able to get the deficit back down to one possession (58-57) by about the halfway point of third. The Jazz got back to playing some of the stifling defense that helped them take charge in the first quarter and offensively their aggression was leading to an uptick in free throws. A Crowder three-pointer after a 5-second violation by the Celtics pushed the Jazz lead up to four and just like that, the Celtics hard-work from the second quarter had vanished. But the Jazz weren’t finished. They rode the momentum to a 15-0 run to push the lead to 11. The ball movement that got the Celtics in the drivers seat in the first place disappeared and it appeared like the game was set to get out of hand. But after the timeout the C’s were able to respond with a mini-run that cut the deficit to 4. Celtics were able to luckily escape the quarter only down 4. The silver lining of that frame was Semi Ojeleye who finally found his range from three, had a nice and-1 layup off a cut, and scored on a pull-up jumper in the frame, C’s needed all of it.
The final frame started with Aron Baynes finally dunking on someone. The victim? Our old friend Jae Crowder. Celtics put an interesting twist to the game by going with both Aron Baynes and Greg Monroe while switching up their defense between a 2-3 zone and man. The results weren’t great, with the Jazz able to get the defense scrambling and extending the lead, but with the playoffs starting soon I think this could have just been Stevens experimenting with potential lineups he may have to go to. The Jazz were able to extend their lead momentarily to eight, but two Rozier three’s pushed it back to four. After a Shane Larkin three pushed the deficit to one for the Celtics, the Jazz responded with a quick 4-0 to regain their footing a bit. Each team held their own ground a bit with the Celtics initially unable to break the four point deficit until a pair of Monroe FT’s and a beautiful transition dunk by Jayson Tatum tied the game up at 94.
With the game tied with under a minute left, the Celtics and Jazz each traded misses, and with under 30 seconds the Jazz had a chance to take the lead, but Crowder was blocked by Jayson Tatum and on the recovery Joe Ingles was unable to put it in. The Celtics were able to grab the rebound and call timeout with 14.7 seconds left.
With the game winding down, man, just watch.