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Home Road Trip Celtics head home with a win over Jazz to end 3-2 road trip

Celtics head home with a win over Jazz to end 3-2 road trip

by Staff

Tatum led the Celtics with 38 points on 13-for-25 shooting and had six rebounds. White tied his season high with seven 3-pointers and helped with 24 points and six rebounds.

“The last game of a road trip is always important,” Tatum said. “We’ve been gone for while. Obviously, we want to go home, see our families. We started off 0-2. It was good that we responded to win these last three games. It was a big win. We lost here last year. A lot of guys got some minutes and stepped up.”

Jrue Holiday added 16 points and eight assists, Sam Hauser added 14 points, and Luke Kornet, making a rare start with Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis out, added 12 points and nine rebounds.

Rookie Keyonte George led Utah with 26 points, but 17 of those were in the first half. Clarkson added 21.

The offense was clicking into the third quarter and the Celtics continued to counter the Jazz’s shot-making with threes. White hit a pair to give Boston an 84-67 lead with 8:41 left in the third.

“The start of the third we went to our bread and butter, D. White pick-and-rolls, and I thought Luke and [Xavier Tillman] did a great job navigating that,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “We got a steady diet of those, which kind of settles us down.”

But suddenly, the 3-pointers stopped falling, the Celtics left former lottery pick Kris Dunn wide open for a pair of threes, and bench sparkplug Clarkson began attacking the paint. The result was a 24-9 surge by Utah that cut the lead to 93-91 after a contested Clarkson layup in the final 36 seconds. After hitting 14 of 25 threes in the first half, the Celtics were 2 for their first 11 in the third.

Tatum, trying to get a two-for-one opportunity, raced the ball up the floor and forced a long, contested three that rattled in. Holiday followed with a steal of Clarkson and tough layup to extend the lead to 98-91 entering the fourth quarter.

Luke Kornet stepped up into a big role against the Jazz and responded with 12 points, nine rebounds, and a sizable defensive presence, George Frey/Associated Press

Utah made 59 percent of its shots in the third quarter, including five threes. But the Celtics made enough plays to keep the lead, and then began the fourth with the period’s first 15 points for a 22-point advantage.

Mazzulla said he had no idea the Jazz cut the deficit to 2 points. He said he was consumed with managing the game and was pleased with how his team closed quarters and responded to the Jazz’s runs.

“I wish we could play that team like five more times,” he said. “Because they have the innate ability to dominate the transition (game). There were three really important pockets of the game where it got to as close at time. Regardless of the score, I was focused on we’ve got to win those transitions. We’ve got to make sure we get a great shot every time down. We’ve got to make sure we get it to five-on-five (get back on defense) and we’ve got to hold them to one shot.”

Utah, coached by former Celtics assistant Will Hardy, kept making runs in the first half, including a 15-4 surge to slice the deficit to 54-50. The Celtics, behind threes from Tatum and Hauser, closed the half on an 18-7 run for a 72-57 lead.

White, who had been slumping of late, scored 15 points in the first half, including four 3-pointers. The Celtics shot 59.1 percent in the first half and were 14 for 25 from the 3-point line. The turnover issue crept up after the Celtics were nearly flawless, committing only three, in Monday’s win at Portland.

Boston committed seven turnovers in the first half Tuesday, allowing the Jazz to stay within striking distance in the second half.

The Celtics again refused to take a lesser and shorthanded opponent lightly, especially Tatum, who started his best game of the road trip by contributing 15 first-quarter points to take a 44-33 lead. The early issue for the defense was George, who countered Tatum with 15 points in the first, including back-to-back threes.

Utah’s defense allowed the Celtics to get open threes with the extra pass and they canned nine triples in the opening quarter, including two each from Hauser, White, and Payton Pritchard.

Jaylen Brown was scratched with a back strain, while Porzingis sat out his third consecutive game with a strained hamstring. And with Horford held out in the second game of a back-to-back set, Kornet got the start up front and again produced quality minutes. He scored 8 points to go with 6 rebounds and 4 assists in the first half as his teammates continue to use him as a lob option.

The Jazz were without former All-Star Lauri Markkanen because of a quadriceps contusion.

Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him @GwashburnGlobe.

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