Thursday, March 5, 2015

Celtics 85 - Jazz 84: Zeller's Buzzer Beater Snaps C's Skid

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Boston - It was not only parquet pride uniform night, but Noche Latina at the TD Garden on Wednesday. The Celtics were also looking to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and snap a two-game losing streak in the process. It wasn't the prettiest of basketball games, but Tyler Zeller saved the day with a reserve layup before time expired to beat the Jazz 85-84.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 21 points and 7 assists, while Jae Crowder added 18 points both off the bench. Avery Bradley chipped in with 13 points and the hero; Zeller finished with 8 points to go along with his 11 rebounds in the win.

Utah, winners of three-straight, were led by Derrick Favors and Trey Burke who each scored 16 points. Gordon Hayward finished with 13 points and Rudy Gobert added 10 points and 16 boards in the loss.

The Celtics barely were hanging on in the first half as they were up 35-34 at intermission despite shooting a mere 32.6 percent from the floor. By the start of the fourth the C's were up six over the Jazz, and even pushed it to nine before Utah went on a 7-1 run with 6:05 left to play to be only down 71-68. Boston then went on a 10-5 run of their own to go up 81-73 with just 2:30 remaining.

One last 9-2 rally by the Jazz cut the deficit 83-82 with 54.8 seconds left on the clock. Isaiah Thomas missed a right side 3-ball and a Crowder attempted put-back was blocked by Gobert, resulted in a Trey Burke drive that hit the rim and was called out of bounce by the Celtics. With 9.5 seconds and the ball in Hayward's hands, he sank a mid range jumper after shaking off Bradley, and forcing Zeller to switch and guard the former Butler star for the potential game-winning shot. Utah had taken their first lead of the second half 84-83 with 1.7 ticks to go.

Brad Stevens had to draw up a play twice, after Marcus Smart (7 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds) failed to inbound the ball the first time, nearly getting whistled for a five-second count and calling another timeout. On the second go-around the rookie was able to connect on a pass to an open Zeller in the paint, and as he hit a reverse bank shot off the backboard after patiently pump faking once as time expired for the victory.

"I saw Gordon (Hayward) flying in so I shot-faked and just got the ball up," said Zeller. "Thankfully, I was able to get it up to the rim and was able to make it."

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The Celtics' bench came to the rescue once again as they scored 48-of the C's 85-overall points. Poor defense and shooting blew a late lead and the Jazz almost got away with another win over Brad Stevens. This group as of late has learned to keep their cool in tight situations,  that's not something that could have been said two-months ago even though some of the personnel has changed. Disregarding the Cleveland game on Tuesday night of course, these young Celtics have a real shoot at a postseason birth (2-games out in the loss column).

Even Stevens has shown better confidence in his ability to draw up plays.

 "It was a great pass," Hayward said about the last play and praising his former college coach. "That's what Coach Stevens does. He's excellent in those situations."

Boston will go back on the road to the 'Big Easy' on Friday night as they take on the 33-28 Pelicans. Tip-off is at 8:00 EST

Game Notes:

The C's set a franchise record of only turning the ball over 3 times versus Utah's 13 turnovers last night. Kelly Olynyk returned to the Celtics' lineup for the first time in 18 games, the second-year forward did not score on three shot attempts in seven minutes off the bench. Marcus Smart was named NBA's Rookie of the Month honors for February. The guard helped his team go 7-4 last month in which were all starts. The last Celtic to win award was Adrian Griffin in 1999. Congrats Mr. Smart!

Joel Pavón
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