The Utah Jazz (22-14) had their four game win-streak broken by the Boston Celtics (21-14), who now have won five in a row. The record says that this should have been a pretty even match, one pitting a really hot offense against a really steadfast defense. Offense won tonight, as the Celtics ran away with it early, 115-104. This is now Utah’s eight straight loss in Boston, and are 11-36 all-time as the visitors.
They certainly did not play like they belonged, that’s for certain.
Utah was out-shot, .554 / .548 / .941 is greater than .463 / .423 / .810, which is what we expected as the better offensive club is Boston. But the Celtics also had more fast break points, more points in the paint, more assists, more blocks, almost won the rebounding battle, and really showed a lot more urgency.
In the first quarter things were pretty okay, both teams were making shots, both teams were turning the ball over. Raul Neto hit a buzzer beater off the glass from about 38 feet to put the Jazz up 29-28 after one. The wheels came off for both squads early in the second. Both teams would shot 4/12 at one point and even more turn overs were happening. But then Boston turned it on.
Being down one after one turned into being up by nine at half. They really finished strong, pushing a 5 point lead to 9, and outscoring Utah 26-16 in what would turn out to be the pivotal quarter in this game.
Utah didn’t make any movement aside from making it a single digit game at one point. Boston won the third quarter 31-29, and they two teams played to a tie in the fourth. When Utah was down big they seemed to play with no urgency or intensity. It’s like some of the guys on this squad gave up, and the game plan took a knee in what should have been crunch time.
That’s not to say that EVERYONE was taking the night off. Rudy Gobert continues to battle all game long, even with the game decided, he got in the face of the refs to get them to review a ball that went out of bounds to see who should get possession. Gobert would not get the double double he’s used to getting (8 points, 13 rebounds, only one block) but he made an impact early and often. While Isaiah Thomas was the Celtics’ focus for their offense, it was clear that mitigating Rudy Gobert was a focus of their defense. They got in the way of any and all lob attempts. They kept him off the free throw line. They made life tough for him in the paint.
And that’s really a turning point, when the other team is trying to stop the Utah Jazz’ center. That’s really a new one.
Gordon Hayward was also big, scoring 23 points off of just 14 shots, hitting threes and getting to the line along the way. The problem was that he was forced into playing a lot of defense tonight and switched quite a lot. The outcome was that “his” man, Jae Crowder (son of former Jazzman Corey Crowder) was left wide open and nailed his threes.
In fact, this was a common problem tonight as Isaiah Thomas, hot off of a 52 point game where he had zero assists, went out there to create for his teammates. Thomas still scored 29 points, but his 15 assists (a career high) helped contribute to the Celtics tying their franchise record of 17 made threes. Jae Crowder went 5/6 from deep. Al Horford went 3/6. The only bigman who wasn’t killing Utah from outside was the guy you expected to kill Utah from the outside, Kelly Olynyk went 0/4 and brought the Celtics % down.
This really wasn’t a well played game by Utah in the second half. The first half, aside from letting Boston go on a run to finish it, was fine. Utah was a little sloppy with the passes, and they were missing open outside shots. They were good shots within the flow of the offense. Brad Stevens made better adjustments than Quin Snyder. And while Utah started to make some threes, Boston didn’t have to care because Utah couldn’t stop Thomas.
We got a heartbeat from Derrick Favors, who finished with 12 points and 7 assists, but you can tell that there are a few times where he would have normally finished strong at the rim where he did not. The starting guards were not very effective on offense nor on defense. Rodney Hood scored 9 points off of 10 shots, and missed all of his threes. Not to be outdone, Shelvin Mack scored 8 points off of 10 shots and also missed all of his threes.
Joe Inges, Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and Raul Neto picked up a lot of slack — our bench outplayed their bench. That was one of my preview points of emphasis. But when three of Boston’s starters drop between 29-21 points, and another nets 14 you’re in a hole.
This was a bad game for Utah. A bad match-up without George Hill or Dante Exum. But it’s just one game.
Utah has the night off, and will play the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. The Raptors just got their butts kicked by the San Antonio Spurs, their last game of a long road trip, and will also be tired and playing in a new city once again. Dante Exum is going to be evaluated between now and then, he may be ready to play. More info on George Hill when appropriate.