Despite playing one of their best first halves in the past few weeks, the Boston Celtics were unable to pull out a victory over the league-leading Utah Jazz Tuesday night at the TD Garden, losing by a 117-109 final. The C’s got 29 points from Jayson Tatum and 28 more from Jaylen Brown, but Utah’s balanced scoring was too much to overcome. Donovan Mitchell finished with 21 points to lead the Jazz, and Rudy Gobert had a double-double of 16 points and 12 boards. With the loss, Boston falls to 20-19 on the season, which puts them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Utah continued to add to their win total, moving to 29-10 on the year.
Boston jumped out to an early 18-7 lead, and played a very strong first quarter, which was highlighted by Jaylen Brown scoring 10 points in the frame. Boston took a slim 22-20 lead into the second quarter after Brown’s outburst, but by halftime the Jazz had responded to take a 54-53 lead. Strangely enough, Boston’s best offense of the first half was running a pick-and-roll at two-time DPOY Rudy Gobert, who seemed to be a step slow. While it sounds like a questionable strategy, Daniel Theis got wide-open jumper after jumper and was really making the Jazz pay.
The game went back and forth in the third quarter, with the Jazz maintaining a lead for most of the 12 minutes, until a Marcus Smart 3 gave Boston a 2-point lead with less than a minute left in the third. However, the Jazz kept going and built a 9-point lead with less than seven minutes to go in the game. Boston made a late charge, cutting the lead to 1 with 4:10 remaining, but were never able to get over the hump.
It felt like this game swung when Jordan Clarkson checked into the game for the Utah Jazz. Always known as a scorer, Clarkson has finally found a role he’s excelling in as Utah’s sixth man. He’s the runaway favorite for Sixth Man of the Year, and he showed why in this game. After not scoring in his first six minutes of action in this game, he poured in 14 points in his next nine minutes. By the end of the game, he was up to 20 points and had played a major role in the outcome of the game, just as he has done all season for the Jazz.
For Boston, this game just confirmed what we all kind of already knew. Tatum and Brown are stars, but to contend with the best of the best, they need more help. With two young stars, it’s pretty disappointing to see this team continue to hover around .500, but that’s just what this group is this year. While Kemba Walker, Daniel Theis, and Robert Williams combined to score 45 points, it just feels like this team relies on the Jay’s too much. The C’s don’t have a Jordan Clarkson: a bucket-getter off the bench who can just run the show while the stars rest, and not have the game get out of hand.
While Tatum and Brown are amazing on a nightly basis, it would be nice for them to not have to play almost 40 minutes a night because nobody else can get any offense going. Going into the trade deadline, GM Danny Ainge certainly knows that he needs to add to this group if they want to make any noise in the playoffs, so we’ll see what he manages to stir up.
Next up for Boston is a matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. The Cavaliers are not very good, so it would be nice to see the C’s jump on them early and be able to rest some of their starters who have been playing huge minutes this year. Yes they just had the All Star Break, but every night that Tatum and Brown can save even a little big of energy is a bonus going forward. Overall, this was a hard loss to swallow with how well Boston played in the first half, but they just aren’t on the level of Utah this year. With the trade deadline coming up, Ainge will have to make some moves to change that.
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