The Celtics hosted the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, opening up their series of four games in five days. The Celtics matched up against a strong frontcourt for the first time this year facing Paul Millsap and former Celtic Al Jefferson. The Celtics stood up to the test getting their third straight win 98-93.
The Celtics opened with the same line-up we've seen in recent games, featuring Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, and Kevin Garnett. Doc looked to go to the bench early and often to keep players minutes down in preparation of the rigorous schedule. Of the starters Brandon Bass played the most minutes with 32 and finished with 8 points and rebounds. Rajon Rondo only played 25 minutes in the game as he rolled his ankle early on. He retreated to the locker room to get it looked at and was diagnosed with a mild ankle sprain. Although he didn't return to the game he finished with 6 points and was able to keep his double digit assist steak in tact with 10. Paul Pierce played well ending with a game high 23 points to go alongwith 2 rebounds and 2 assists. The team once again leaned on Garnett's leadership and defense in crunch time. He held Al Jefferson to 13 points on 6-12 shooting and finished with 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) drives the baseline against Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
The highlight of the night had to be the bench play and production. The bench as a whole contributed a season high 47 points fueled by great games from both Leandro Barbosa and Jeff Green. Barbosa was a key contributor coming in after Rondo got hurt and went back to the locker room. In 22 minutes he provided instant offense going 6-8 in the game for 16 points and 3 assists. Its great to see his aggressiveness increasing as he has proven he can get to the basket and make plays in transition. In addition to Barbosa's play, Jeff Green finally showed fans what we've been waiting for scoring 16 points on 5-9 shooting. Jeff really established a rhythm working out of the post, on the drive, and showcased his athleticism with a monster slam over Al Jefferson. If the Celtics can get this sort of contribution from Green on a consistent basis expect big things. Finally was Chris Wilcox who has continued to be extremely efficient in his play. Chris totaled 7 points on 3-3 shooting with 5 rebounds in just 18 minutes.
Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, right, reaches around Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams (5) while trying to defend against Williams' drive to the hoop during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Even though the Celtics executed well the Jazz simply wouldn't go away in the game keeping it close at almost all points. This was largely due to their dominance on the offensive glass grabbing 18 to the Celtics' 4. Millsap was aggressive throughout the night scoring 20 points to go with 12 rebounds. Utah as a team shot poorly being held to just 40.2% shooting to that of 50% from the Celtics.
The game stayed close and came down to the final minute. At the 1:08 mark KG stepped to the line and hit one of two free throws to put the Celtics up 94-93. Both teams missed on their ensuing possessions until the Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin called a time out with 32.3 seconds remaining. With Rajon Rondo on the bench, Barbosa played great defense on Mo Williams forcing a tough shot that missed short. The Celtics were able to gather the rebound and Utah sent Paul Pierce to the free throw line where he hit both to put the team up 96-93. The Celtics once again played solid defense forcing a Paul Millsap miss but Jeff Green was called for a very questionable travel on the rebound giving Utah one more shot at the tie. The team stayed strong and came away with the win after KG made it a two possession game.
The Celtics make a trip down to Brooklyn, NY tomorrow to face the Nets in the new Barclays Center. Tune in tomorrow at 8:00pm as the Celtics play on national television for the second time and look to move their win streak to four.