The Utah Jazz made their final exhibition appearance of the season, Monday, and for them it came none too soon.
The aging front court of the Boston Celtics showed there's plenty of life left. Larry Bird scored 28 points, Robert Parrish 23 and Kevin McHale 15, as the Celtics drubbed Utah 120-102 at the Providence Civic Center.Using a combination of veterans and young players like Brian Shaw (12 points) and Kevin Gamble (12 points), the Celtics appeared ready to challenge for the Atlantic Division crown this year. "They're so much better than they were a year ago, it almost isn't even the same team," said Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan.
Utah will undoubtedly be glad to see the exhibition season end. The Jazz managed only one win in eight games, completing their worst preseason ever. The victory ended Boston's exhibition season with a 6-2 record.
The Jazz now move on to play Phoenix Friday in Japan for the season-opener while Boston awaits its first regular-season game on Friday against Cleveland.
Following Utah's surprise win over Detroit on Sunday, it appeared the Jazz were ready break out of their preseason slump. And through the early going, the game was similar to Sunday's contest. Both teams stayed close early before Boston built a double-figure advantage.
But that's where the similarity ended. Though the Jazz cut a 14-point third-quarter lead by Boston to eight, that was the end of the suspense. The Celtics widened their lead to 20 points before the final horn sounded.
Parrish did most of the early damage for the Celtics, scoring eight first-quarter points, en route to a 21-17 lead. Bird accounted for most of the rest, scoring 14 by halftime and another 14 in the second half.
Utah fell behind 19-12 in the first quarter, but struggled back to go ahead by a point in the second period. But as the end of the half wound down, the Celtics gradually stretched their lead to 10 points, thanks partly to seven unanswered points.
Boston had a 56-46 lead at the midway break.
The Celtics scored the first four points of the third period before a run, led by Karl Malone's eight straight free throws, pulled the Jazz to a 68-60 deficit. But the Celtics then went on a 7-2 run to pull safely ahead.
Utah never got closer than a nine-point deficit in the last quarter.
The win was Boston's second in the preseason over the Jazz. Boston beat Utah 114-107 on Oct. 20 in Ogden. In that game Jazz guard Jeff Malone was out with the flu.
This time Malone was healthy, and his flurry in the fourth quarter was the only thing that kept the final margin from being greater. He totaled 14 points, 12 in the final period.
Karl Malone was the Jazz's bright spot, making all 11 free throws attempted and totaling 31 points in his best effort of the preseason. Thurl Bailey got 18 and John Stockton 17.