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.
But the young guns group of Alec Burks, Hayward, Carroll, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter made it a game again with a 13-2 push to tie the game at 85-85 with eight minutes remaining.
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.'"
Though the Celtics were the team that's been on the go — "Five games, seven nights, five different cities and three different time zones," Rivers reminded reporters — it was the Jazz who appeared fatigued down the stretch.
"I don't think that was a factor," said Hayward, who played 36 minutes, including the final 24 minutes. "They made shots and plays at the end of the game and we didn't."
Along with Pierce's big night — which also included eight assists and seven rebounds — the Celtics had a total of six players in double figures. Garnett was his usual grumpy kind of good with 13 points, 10 rebounds and physical defense.
But the Jazz were killed by Celtics point guard Avery Bradley — filling in for injured Rajon Rondo — and his 18 points. Courtney Lee contributed 14, including two free throws with 1.2 seconds to go in overtime.
Utah had a chance to force a second OT, but Randy Foye heaved up an errant 3-pointer from an awkward angle at the buzzer.
"You want to win the ballgame and they're a little disappointed they didn't finish it off," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "But I’m proud of the way they played and the fact we hung in there."
NOTES: Earl Watson replaced Jamaal Tinsley in the starting lineup at point guard. Watson had two points and two assists, while Tinsley didn't play. Foye went 2 for 6 from 3-point range, moving him to within two treys of the Jazz team record 129 that Mehmet Okur drilled in 2005-06. Hayward, who wears a compression shirt to help his healing right shoulder, has averaged 22.0 points since returning from his 10-game injury absence. Millsap hit his first six shots and finished with 16 points. The Jazz are 2-1 in overtime games this season, having previously beaten Indiana and Toronto (3OT).
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