Utah Jazz lose defensive battle to Boston Celtics, 94-82
Elise Amendola, AP
BOSTON — Some things remained the same after the Boston Celtics thwarted the Utah Jazz's valiant comeback attempt and earned a 94-82 victory over the visitors.
Al Jefferson will have to wait another season to try to get his first win over the team that picked him in the 2004 draft.
Kevin Garnett will still not get a Christmas card from Big Al, and vice-versa.
The Jazz struggle at Boston's Garden.
And, yes, all of those constants played a part in Utah's road-trip-ending loss.
Despite being 35 years old, Garnett led a Boston 'D' Party that stymied and suffocated both Big Al and the Jazz offense for a good portion of Wednesday's game.
Jefferson finished with 18 points, but he only had two at halftime after missing his first seven shots.
And the Jazz got rattled by the Celtics in the second quarter — when they scored only 14 points — and again in the final moments as Boston beat them by double digits in Beantown for the fourth straight year.
To Utah's credit, the Jazz stormed back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter to tie this one up at 86-all.
But the Jazz team that went to quadruple overtime only a few days earlier, then played the next night, and had traveled from Utah to Atlanta to New Jersey to Massachusetts for this grueling road trip finally ran out of gas as the Celtics finished strong.
"They're tough and they have hands on you the whole time," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought in the first half especially they got us out on the floor too far. We didn't do a good job of going inside. They were the aggressor and got all the calls as a result."
One of the calls the Celtics had go in their favor was a double-technical foul on Big Al and Garnett, despite the Boston big man throwing an elbow at Jefferson.
Just another chapter to the ongoing rivalry these two have since they swapped teams in 2007 when Jefferson was shipped to Minnesota and Garnett to Boston.
"It's really interesting. They clearly have something. That's how it always is," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Al was traded from here and Kevin is here, so that will always last. It's good, though, as long as we won."
And not so good if you're the team from Utah that didn't win.
"It's just him being him," Jefferson said of Garnett. "That's all I got to say about that."
A fired-up Garnett led the Celtics, playing without injured Ray Allen, by scoring 23 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing out four assists, blocking one of Big Al's shots and playing a physical style of defense that can get into opponents' heads (not to mention other body parts).
"I thought it brought out the best in KG, no doubt about it," Rivers said. "That's good."
Again, all a matter of perspective.
"He's just so experienced and such a competitive man that he's going to do whatever it takes for his team to have a chance to win. He showed that on both ends tonight," Corbin said of Garnett. "Defensively, he's going to fight, claw and scratch for everything he get out there and you're going to have to really compete against him."
Sparked by Jefferson, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap, Utah used a massive 23-5 run in the second half to make a game out of this.
But a minute later, the Celtics had poured in seven straight points on a Keyon Dooling 3-pointer, a Garnett bucket and free throws from Avery Bradley.
In the final six minutes, Garnett almost matched Utah's offense, scoring eight points to the Jazz's 11.
Unfortunately for Jefferson, that put his record against his old team to 0-9. The Jazz, now 11-31 in Boston, fell for the fourth consecutive time at the Garden, having lost by an average of 17.3 points in three previous shellackings.
"It's always good coming back here," Jefferson said. "It'd be nice to get a win."
At 27-24, Utah remains No. 7 in the West, and the Jazz tried to take the positive comeback vibe back with them.
"We got down and I'm proud of the fact the guys fought back," Corbin said. "We had a chance."
The Jazz also had a spirited effort from second-year swingman Gordon Hayward, who led Utah with 19 points while also collecting seven rebounds, five assists and back-to-back blocked shots that led to an Enes Kanter fast-break basket.
"The hustle plays that he made with the two blocked shots in that series, that's the way he is," Corbin said. "He's continued to grow and get better and understanding what it's going to take for him to get to the other level playing in this league. He did a tremendous job tonight."
The Jazz ended this trip 1-2, but they showed gusto in losses at Atlanta and Boston.
"That's definitely something I think we've shown on this road trip. We have fight," Hayward said. "We're never going to give up. The heart on this team is great. We've just got to be a little bit better in that first half and not get down, so we don't have to fight back like that."
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