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Celtics destroyed on the boards, lose at Utah 118-117

Boston blows a 19-point first-half lead, drops into third place in the East

Boston Celtics v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Twenty second-chance points by the Jazz were the difference tonight as the Celtics lost 118-117 in Utah. Boston gave up a season-high 17 offensive rebounds, and their counterpunch of 22 threes wasn’t enough to save them.

Jaylen Brown led with 25 points and Grant Williams shot 7-of-12 from the arc, but was blocked under the hoop on the final inbounds play as time expired. Jayson Tatum was held to 15 points, none in the second half. Lauri Markkanen led Utah with 28 points.

Despite the loss, the Cs clinched a playoff spot thanks to Miami losing to Chicago. However, the Celts fell to 3-2 on their road trip, and dropped into third in the East, a few percentage points behind the Sixers, who won their eighth straight earlier in the evening.

Malcolm Brogdon returned after missing the win in Portland. Robert Williams and Payton Pritchard remained on the injury list, and were joined by Marcus Smart (left hip contusion) and Al Horford (who customarily sits out the tail end of a back-to-back). Blake Griffin and Grant moved into the starting lineup.

Utah was without the injured Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton. The Jazz played for the first time since Monday, when they completed a six-game road trip of their own.

From the jump, the Jazz ran a double-team at Tatum every time he touched the ball all night; he took just one shot in the first quarter. But his teammates took advantage by shooting 57% and hitting 7-of-13 threes. Boston used a 15-3 run (including a Malcolm Brogdon free throw after old friend Kelly Olynyk was T’d up for complaining) to build a 13-point lead. Markkanen drained a triple at the buzzer but the Celts led 34-24. Jaylen led the team with 10 points in the frame.

Tatum broke out in the second quarter, highlighted by a four-point play in which Utah’s Johnny Juzang committed a flagrant foul with a “reckless closeout.” Soon after, Tatum swished another triple to surpass 2,000 points for the season. When Grant drove for a slam off Jayson’s fourth assist of the night, the Celtics had scored 11 straight to take a 53-24 lead.

But as we know, these Celtics’ weakness is relinquishing large leads. The Jazz switched to zone defense, which cooled off Boston’s shooting, and Utah reeled off a 23-5 run that cut the lead to a single point. Their offensive rebounding (10 in the half) also made a difference.

Tatum restored order slightly in the closing minute by burying a three from up top, then drawing a shooting foul for three free throws with 0.4 seconds left. His six-point burst made the score 64-57 at intermission. Tatum and Brown both scored 15 in the half.

The Jazz came out strong in the third, and when Ochai Agbaji hit consecutive threes, they took their first lead of the night at 71-69. Derrick White’s three took back the lead at 73-71. It was short-lived. Walker Kessler made consecutive layups and Rudy Gay drilled a triple to cap an 11-2 run, and Utah led 82-75.

NBA momentum can shift quickly though. Mike Muscala’s corner three triggered an 11-0 run. A Brogdon trey and feed to Luke Kornet made it a 16-3 stretch, and when the buzzer sounded the Cs held a tenuous 91-88 advantage.

With the score tied at 95, Brogdon’s layup and jumper, sandwiched around a Grant triple, put Boston up seven with 8:00 to go.

With 1:43 left in the fourth quarter, the officials ruled a foul by Jaylen Brown was a flagrant one. Kessler missed both, but Agbaji made a three with the extra possession. When Talen Horton-Tucker drove for a layup, the Jazz led by one with 35.3 remaining.

The Celtics now have two days off before closing out their road trip versus the Sacramento Kings, who will be playing their second game in two nights.

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