The short-handed Celtics blew a 19-point lead in their 118-117 loss to the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena Saturday night.
Grant Williams, who tied a career-high in 3-pointers made with 7-of-12 from behind the arc and 23 points, got his driving layup attempt and potential game-winner denied at the rim by Walker Kessler -- his third block -- in the final seconds.
"The play was designed to get the ball to JT," Williams explained in his postgame presser. "Normally, the big is the one that’s guarding. They didn't take the guy off the ball. They took Lauri off the ball. So, I got open against [Markkanen]."
Jayson Tatum missed his previous two jumpers and with 5.0 seconds left he stood in the backcourt, a formation that has been seen plenty of times this season when it comes to plays drawn up by C's head coach Joe Mazzulla.
"I'm not frustrated at Grant," said Tatum in his postgame comments after going 4-of-12 from the field to score just 15 points. "If he made it, everybody would be happy. It's not why we lost, that last play."
Jaylen Brown finished with 25 points, six assists, while Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles soreness) returned from a one-game absence to add 16 points and five rebounds off the bench.
"He just tried to make a play," Mazzulla said to reporters of Williams. "It was the way the defense played. They did a good job denying it with the inbounder, and then by the time he got it. he had to make a play."
Boston at 49-23, are two games behind the East leading Milwaukee Bucks (50-20) and have fallen to third behind the Philadelphia 76ers (48-22).
Playing on a second night of a back-to-back (8-3), the C's were without Marcus Smart (left hip contusion), Al Horford (lower back soreness), Robert Williams (left hamstring sprain) and Payton Pritchard (left heel pain).
Lauri Markkanen led all scorers with 28 points, to go along with 10 rebounds and six rebounds for Utah. Talen Horton-Tucker had 19 points, Kelly Olynyk notched 13 points, 13 rebounds and Kessler chipped in 12 points, 14 rebounds for the Jazz -- who improved to 34-36 on the season, winning three of their last five games.
The Celtics were up 53-34 (their largest margin) with 6:36 left in the first half, before Utah used a 23-5 run to cut their deficit down to five (58-53). Tatum extended a one-point lead to seven at the break after a 3-pointer and three made free throws (fouled on a 3-point attempt) to end the second quarter.
The Jazz took their first lead during a 14-5 spurt to start the third which became a back-and-forth the rest of the period that had two ties and five lead changes.
Boston had a 111-104 advantage with 4:36 left to play, but Horton-Tucker's go-ahead layup concluded a 14-6 run response from the Jazz in the final 35.5 seconds.
Tatum missed a top of the key 3-pointer, before Horton-Tucker threw the ball away on the other end -- allowing the Celtics one last opportunity to win.
Out of the timeout Williams made a run towards the hoop, despite having a couple of options, Utah's defenders looked to cut off the corners and Kessler came up with the biggest block of the night to complete the comeback.
"As soon as I caught it, I was right in the lane," Williams said, breaking down the possession. "So, I took the dribble [and] tried to look up to see if anybody was available. JB [Jaylen Brown] fell to my left, and [I] potentially had Sam [Hauser] to my right for a shot. By then, it was probably three seconds left on the clock. JT was in the backcourt. Malcolm was still out of bounds. So, I was like, 'I got to get a shot up at least.'"
The Celtics will wrap up their six-game road (3-2) in Sacramento Tuesday night when they face the surging Kings (43-27). Tip-off is at 10:00 ET on NBA TV.
Boston was 47.7% from the field, including 22-of-51 (43.1%) from deep, while the Jazz were 43.3% from the floor and 17-of-41 (41.5%) from long distance. The Celtics were out-rebounded 56-40 and outscored in the paint 48-30. The C's had 30 assists (eight turnovers) on 42 baskets and Utah dished out 29 dimes (seven turnovers) on 42 made shots.
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images
Photo used courtesy of Getty Images