SALT LAKE CITY — If it's any consolation to the Utah Jazz after their heartbreaking loss at home Monday night, the 110-107 overtime setback was a season highlight for the Boston Celtics.
"It was huge," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "It was the best win of the year for me."
Paul Pierce's clutch 26-point performance allowed Boston to finish off a five-game road trip with a rare win for a visiting team in Utah.
After missing a game-winning attempt at the end of regulation, the star had seven points in overtime to help Boston bounce back from a loss in Portland on Sunday.
OK, forget that consolation part. That amounts to a hill of Boston beans for the Jazz.
Throw this in the bag that includes Utah's most disappointing defeats of the 2012-13 season. It was the Jazz's second straight stumble — following a 107-94 road blowout against the Los Angeles Clippers — and dropped the team's record to 31-26.
It was also personal for Jazz center Al Jefferson.
Since Boston traded him to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett in 2008, Big Al has gone winless in 11 tries against the team that drafted him out of high school in 2004.
"Yeah, it's a loss," said Jefferson, who had his 27th double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. "Tough one that I feel like we could have won."
Gordon Hayward led Utah with 26 points off the bench, but the Jazz couldn't decide whether they were going to lead or trail by eight points before running out of steam against a team that didn't play like it'd been on a long journey.
The Jazz struggled in the third quarter when their eight-point lead turned into an eight-point deficit thanks to massive 20-4 Boston run.
After battling back thanks to the Jazz's Next Generation squad, Utah couldn't do anything to slow Pierce down when it mattered most despite a suffocating defensive effort by DeMarre Carroll.
Carroll gave Utah a brief 101-99 lead in overtime, but Pierce answered with a 3-pointer and back-to-back jumpers to give the Celtics a five-point cushion with just over a minute left in the extra session.
It was the fifth game in a row in which Pierce has scored at least 20 points against the Jazz.
Likewise, it was Boston's fifth consecutive victory against Utah.
"Paul Pierce has been doing that to guys for years. That's why he's so great," said Jazz small forward Marvin Williams, who broke out of a slump with 15 points. "DeMarre did a great job guarding him, man. It's just one of those things where it's good defense, (but) it's just better offense sometimes."
The Jazz seemed en route to a blowout loss after falling apart in the third quarter, when they were outscored 32-19.
For the rest of the fourth quarter, the two teams traded blows, with the Jazz matching every go-ahead Boston bucket with a basket of their own.
Burks helped force overtime by hitting a tough off-balanced, left-handed drive over Garnett with 19.9 seconds remaining.
Pierce was forced into a difficult fading attempt at the buzzer thanks to Carroll's hounding defense.
"Paul just made some tough shots," Jefferson said. "I think DeMarre played tough defense on him. Paul just made tough shots. That's why they call him 'The Truth.'"
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