Monday, February 29, 2016

Celtics 100 - Jazz 95: C's avenge their loss to Utah

It was only 10-days ago when the Celtics were in Utah for their first game after the All-Star break, that turned into one of Boston's worst loss of the season as they were blown out by 18 points.

On Monday night it took Jae Crowder's 22-points and an Avery Bradley (18 points) game winning block to extend their home win streak to 11 games with a 100-95 victory over the Jazz at the TD Garden.

"We were really locking in, and being resilient and believing in one another. We're believing in what coach Brad draws up for us," said Crowder. "We've been doing a great job when it's crunch time of finding the right shot. That takes a lot of togetherness, and I think we've shown that. We got to continue to show that to win games."

Isaiah Thomas finished with 18 points and 9 assists on 8-of-19 shooting. Tyler Zeller added 10 points and 6 rebounds off the bench while Jared Sullinger chipped in 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the win for the Celtics, who are now 36-25 on the year.

Trey Lyles (24 minutes) led six Jazz players in double figures with 18 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while former Butler Bulldogs Shelvin Mack (18 points) and Gordon Hayward (16 points, 6 assists) shot a combined 14-for-33 from the field. Rudy Gobert contributed with 12 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double along with Derrick Favors who chipped in 11 points and 16 rebounds for Utah, who has loss three straight.

Boston looked like they were going to fall into a hole in the first quarter when they watched the Jazz take a double digit lead early on. By halftime, the Celtics were able to cut the deficit as Utah only led 46-43 (the lowest first half output by the C's in three months). Despite being behind for most of the night, the Celtics were still looking for their first lead halfway through the third quarter while Utah continued to get second chance opportunities (15-offensive rebounds overall) to maintain their lead.

The Jazz were up by one before the Celtics opened up a 9-3 run to start the fourth quarter and finally were ahead for the first time in the second half. After eight lead changes Boston stayed in front for good after a Jae Crowder 3-ball with less than a minute left. The play was drawn up by Stevens to have Thomas drive into the lane, creating space on the wing for a wide open look near the top of the key.

"Once [the defender] sinks in just a little bit I knew I.T. was going to make the right play. I just wanted a little bit of daylight to let it go," said Crowder after the game.

But it was the 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley with the play of the night that sealed the win for the home team, as he drew the difficult task of guarding the much taller 6-foot-8 Gordon Hayward.

With the Celtics up 96-95 with 30 seconds remaining, the Jazz looked to their best scorer as the only option to try and win the game, but got his shot blocked. Utah's swingman tried posting up Bradley as close to paint as possible, before he faked to his right for a turn around jumper. Hayward was denied as he hung in the air and the ball stuck to Bradley's right palm as he forced the turnover.

"I tried to force him in to it," Bradley recalled after the game. "I tried to force him into the middle so I could be right hand to right hand and I was able to get the block."

If that wasn't enough to secure the win, after his block, Bradley was fouled on the other end of the court. After hitting his first free-throw, he missed his second attempt and Amir Johnson fought for the offensive board (four on the night, ninth rebound overall) and found Bradley only to be fouled again. This time he would knock down both freebees to ice the game for good.

Boston will look to extend their home streak (the longest since 2013) to 12 wins when they take on the 32-28 Portland Trail Blazers. Tip-off is at 7:30 PM

Game Notes:

The Celtics forced 9 turnovers and finished outscoring the Jazz 25-4 in fast break points. Utah out-rebounded Boston 52-47 but lost the battle for the most blocks, as the C's swatted away 13 shots (the most since December 12, 2009) to the visiting team's 4.

Jordan Mickey played seven minutes of action, as the rookie responded with 3 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. The forward, who has only seen a total of 13 minutes all season, received a text from Brad Stevens earlier in the day telling him to be ready before game time.

"I got the text early this morning and I read it about ten times before I even got here," Mickey said. "I was trying to prepare myself to be ready for the opportunity, and you never know when you're going to get that opportunity. It happened to be kind of early in the night and I was excited about it."

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