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Home Road Trip Boston Celtics close out road trip with comfortable win over Utah Jazz, 123-107

Boston Celtics close out road trip with comfortable win over Utah Jazz, 123-107

by Staff

Though they faced a brief spot of trouble in early March with losses against Cleveland and Denver, the Boston Celtics are returning home as winners. Following consecutive wins against Phoenix and Portland, they rounded out their West Coast road trip with a 123-107 win over the Utah Jazz. They’ll take the court against Phoenix again on Thursday enjoying a three-game win streak.

Absent the services of Jaylen Brown (sacroiliac strain), Kristaps Porzingis (hamstring) and Al Horford (toe), the Celtics found themselves more shorthanded than they have in recent weeks. Sam Hauser, fresh off a 22-point performance against Portland, and Luke Kornet assumed the vacated spots in the starting lineup, with Xavier Tillman and Oshae Brissett picking up some of the slack off the bench.

Kornet (12-9-6, 28 minutes) and Tillman (7-8-1-1, 27 minutes) acquitted themselves quite well, but for the Celtics, the night belonged to Jayson Tatum and Derrick White. The former led the team in scoring, one of those nights where he makes scoring 30 in the NBA look easy — he finished with 38. The latter recorded perhaps his best shooting night since joining the Celtics, connecting on 7-of-11 three-point shots, while adding a customary three steals and one block. For the Jazz, Keyonte George scored 26, while Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton added 21 and 20, respectively.

The intriguing rookie George drove the action early in the first quarter, connecting five buckets — three of which came from behind the three-point arc — dishing an assist, and swatting a Payton Pritchard layup to kick-start an energetic opening quarter for the Jazz. It took nine minutes for the young guard to miss his first shot of the game. Helping the Jazz along was a foul-happy Boston defense that put itself in the bonus at the midway point of the first quarter.

As most teams have discovered, though, their best wasn’t a match for what the Boston offense can put on the table at any given moment. The Celtics piled up 44 points in the first, — 15 from Tatum — and connected on nine three-pointers as a team, outscoring the Jazz despite Utah shooting 57% from the field. Boston entered the second quarter leading 44-33, their highest scoring first quarter of the season.

All season long, the Celtics have seemed to unlock new wrinkles to their game when missing key contributors. Tonight, the offense operated around extreme ball movement. They piled up 18 assists collectively in the first half, with every player to touch the court besides Tillman contributing at least one, pinging the ball out to open shooters and dicing apart the Utah defense. Puppeteering it all was Holiday, who dished eight first half dimes.

Despite the early Boston onslaught, though, the Jazz held tough in the second. They ripped off a 15-2 run in the early minutes of the quarter to rapidly pull back within a couple possessions of the lead. Undeterred, the relentless Celtics offense found its due eventually; they responded with a 15-3 run of their own, behind the slick passing of Holiday. They outscored the Jazz for the quarter, and hit the halftime break enjoying a 72-57 lead.

One emergent factor in tonight’s action was White, who eclipsed the 20-point mark offensively for the first time since February 22nd. White totaled 24 points on the night, thriving within the Celtics’ drive-and-kick attack by raining catch-and-shoot threes on the Utah defense. His seven made three-pointers tied his most in a game this season.

The Celtics needed every one of them. Abrupt bursts of scoring continued to dominate the proceedings into the second half, and next up was Utah, who once again managed to rally back within a single-digit margin of Boston’s lead. They put the Celtics on their heels behind a 12-2 run that spanned the midway section of the quarter, pulling within four points. Tatum appeared to finally cut the run off with a tough and-one layup, but Utah center Micah Potter responded with a corner three-pointer. A late 5-0 Boston run created a bit of breathing room, but this was a different game entering the fourth quarter, with the Celtics leading 98-91.

The Celtics’ reserve bigs inched the lead back into double digits, as Kornet connected on a pair of free throws and Tillman hit a midrange jumper. White continued his electric night by cashing in on his seventh three-pointer of the evening, extending a 8-0 Boston run and forcing a timeout from Jazz coach Will Hardy.

Matters did not improve for the Jazz when play resumed. The Celtics tacked on a two-pointer from Hauser and a pair of threes from Holiday, and Utah continued to struggle to find the bottom of the net. The Jazz went scoreless through the first 6.5 minutes of the quarter, and when they finally broke the drought, the Celtics led by 20. From there, the conclusion of the game was perfunctory.

Next up, the Celtics return home to face off with the Phoenix Suns for the second time in a week, this Thursday at 7:30 PM EST on TNT.

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