Celtics beat Jazz 114-103 to hand Utah 4th straight loss
By John Coon : Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jayson Tatum took over the game when Boston needed his offense. Then his teammates finished the job in the fourth quarter.
Tatum had 33 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Celtics over the skidding Utah Jazz 114-103 on Wednesday night.
He matched Donovan Mitchell shot for shot during the second quarter after Mitchell sparked the Jazz offense. The two third-year players combined for 16 baskets and 38 points over that 12-minute stretch.
“It was fun to watch,” Boston guard Marcus Smart said. “It was fun to be a part of. It’s always good when you have guys going as hard as those guys were going tonight.”
For Tatum, it marked his third consecutive game with at least 30 points while shooting 60% or better from the field. Kevin McHale was the last player to accomplish that feat, in March 1987. Tatum went 13 of 20 from the floor overall and made three 3-pointers.
His efforts helped the Celtics finish 3-1 on a road trip out West.
“This was big for our team,” Tatum said. “This is a tough place to play. It’s a great way to end a road trip. We could have made excuses on a back-to-back, but we didn’t.”
Tatum’s efficiency and explosiveness on offense rubbed off on his teammates. Jaylen Brown added 20 points and Smart had 17 for Boston. All five starters scored in double figures.
Mitchell scored 37 points to lead Utah. Mike Conley chipped in with 15 and Royce O’ Neale added 14 for the Jazz, who lost their fourth straight game — all at home.
After a back-and-forth third quarter, Boston created some separation early in the fourth. The Celtics broke an 82-all tie on a 3-pointer from Gordon Hayward in the final minute of the third. Smart then made three outside shots and Enes Kanter had three baskets in the paint to help Boston extend its lead to 100-87 with 7:22 left.
“We competed defensively,” Mitchell said. “I think we can hang our hats on that. But now it’s about sustaining that for 48 minutes. I don’t think we should be upset at our effort, just little mistakes that we can fix. They’re a good team. They’re going to capitalize if you make mistakes.”
Utah missed 14 of its first 17 shots and scored only eight points over the game’s first 10 minutes. The Jazz shot just 27% from the floor in the period.
Boston was not much better at 36% from the field over the first 12 minutes, but the Celtics did enough to take a 19-8 lead after Smart tipped in his own missed shot.
“I thought we gave a really pure, good effort. I think you could feel it watching the game. We’ve got to make a few more shots,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “I saw a team that was committed to defending and playing together.”
The Jazz offense got rolling when Mitchell took over in the second quarter. He beat the first-quarter buzzer for his first basket and then ripped off 20 points on nine buckets over the final 12 minutes before halftime.
With Mitchell leading the way, Utah made 10 of its first 12 shots in the period and erased a 10-point deficit. The Jazz put together a 17-3 run to take a 43-39 lead. Mitchell ignited the spurt with back-to-back baskets, hit the go-ahead jumper and finished it off with a fast-break floater.
Tatum matched Mitchell’s second-quarter outburst with one of his own. He scored 18 points on seven baskets to help Boston keep pace. His final bucket in the quarter, a driving layup, gave the Celtics a 53-51 halftime lead.
“Those two guys are really good, aren’t they?” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “Sometimes, I think we overscrutinize the better players in this league. When you watch them do what those two were doing, not many people can do that.”
Utah changed its starting lineup, inserting O’Neale in place of Joe Ingles. O’Neale matched his season high for points, scoring in double figures for the first time in a month. Snyder made the move with an eye toward improving the defense by starting O’Neale, one of the team’s better perimeter defenders.
The coach also made it clear he isn’t finished tinkering with his rotations.
“Joe has not started. Royce has not started. Mike has not started,” Snyder said. “Those lineups and those decisions are always fluid.”
PERFECT AT FIFTY
The Celtics improved to 16-0 when shooting 50% or better from the field. Boston finished at 54% against the Jazz, including 11 of 26 from 3-point range.
Celtics: Kemba Walker (left knee soreness) did not play. ... Smart had a team-high nine assists and three steals. ... Boston outscored Utah 56-46 in the paint.
Jazz: Rudy Gobert got hit with a technical foul with 6:13 left in the third quarter after arguing a call that led to his fourth personal. The technical negated a coach’s challenge by Snyder on the foul call. … Utah scored a season-low 15 points in the first quarter.
The Celtics host the Houston Rockets on Saturday.
The Jazz host the Washington Wizards on Friday.
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