BOSTON — Score one for the old guys.
The Utah Jazz went punch for punch with the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night for 11 minutes in the fourth quarter. The final minute was the problem as Boston eked out a 98-93 win.
The usual suspects powered the Celtics to a 5-3 record. Kevin Garnett scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, including four points in the last 1:08, and Paul Pierce had a pair of free throws to help ice the game.
"We ran 'em," Utah's Paul Millsap said. "They're a veteran group, so we decided we would make them run. … They started to hit shots, and once they start doing that you have to answer and we weren't able to do that."
It wasn't for a lack of opportunities. The Jazz (4-5) missed six shots in the final minute of the game. Trailing 94-93 with a minute to go, Mo Williams missed a 20-footer and Gordon Hayward missed a putback attempt that would have put Utah in the lead. With 21.9 seconds left and still trailing by one, Williams drove to the left of the basket and put up a floater that clanged off the rim. Williams immediately fouled Pierce, then swung his right arm in frustration at the missed opportunity.
Pierce hit both free throws and with 12.7 seconds remaining and trailing 96-93, Millsap's hook shot missed but Utah got a gift when traveling was called on Boston's Jeff Green following the rebound. On a last-gasp effort, Williams hoisted a 26-foot 3-pointer and missed the Jazz's last opportunity to tie the game.
It was the Celtics' fifth straight win over the Jazz in Boston, but it was also their closest shave in several years. Boston's biggest lead in the fourth quarter was six points.
"They outran us in the first half," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Utah's 46-44 halftime advantage. "Wasn't any adjustment. I just told the guys, 'You know, after you score, you can't do your home-run jog and wave at everybody. They're coming right back at you.' "
Indeed, the Jazz made a paltry 40.2 percent of their shots against the Celtics, but fought for 18 offensive rebounds. When Plan A didn't work on offense, Plan B was often a putback or a made jumpshot. Every time the Celtics threatened to pull away, somebody on the Jazz found a way to hit a big shot.
With 1:56 remaining, it was Al Jefferson's offensive rebound that led to his 19-foot jumper that tied the game at 93. Not bad, considering at 3:40 Boston led 93-88 and looked poised to cruise to an easy win. That wasn't going to happen.
"We were in tune to what was going on," Utah coach Ty Corbin said. "I thought we executed very well down there, we got the ball where we wanted to, we made some good plays down the stretch, and that's what we're going to need to continue to do on the road."
Jefferson seemed to relish the give and take with his old team. With 3:22 remaining, Jefferson hit a layup and talked a little about it to Garnett, his former mentor.
"I get up for KG," Jefferson said. "It's not about the trade or nothing. He's just that type of player. I look up to KG. I was a big fan of his in high school."7 comments on this story
Garnett was playing in the NBA before some players on the Jazz roster were in kindergarten. Pierce has been with the Celtics since 1998, the season after the Jazz's last NBA Finals appearance.
Some things just get better with age.
"With age comes experience, and from experience comes wisdom," Millsap said.
Or so the Jazz hope as they continue to talk about learning from their road experiences. They don't have much time to learn. They face the 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday before ending a four-game road swing in Washington on Saturday.