There have been several occasions early in this season in which the Boston Celtics needed a stop in crunch time to pull out a win. Wednesday night was no exception.
Boston led the Jazz 94-93 with just 32.3 seconds left on the clock when Utah called for a timeout with possession of the ball. This was a do-or-die moment for the C’s. Get a stop and remain ahead on the scoreboard. Allow a bucket and the pressure is on Boston to regain the lead before time runs out.
Per usual with the Celtics, their defense stepped up to the plate.
Utah inbounded the basketball to Mo Williams, who was defended by Leandro Barbosa, on the right wing. Rajon Rondo would typically be Williams’ defender on this play, but Rondo was on the sideline with a sprained right ankle. So it was Barbosa’s job to get the stop. The Jazz knew that and they went right at Barbosa, who isn’t known for his defensive prowess.
Williams took the ball to his left and drove down the left baseline before scooping up what seemed like a pretty good look at the basket. Barbosa, however, was right on his tail to challenge the shot. As Williams lobbied for a whistle, his shot came up short and Kevin Garnett rose up for the rebound with 20.6 seconds remaining in the game.
Boston tacked on four more points from the free-throw line while the Jazz missed their final three shots of the game. All in all, Utah didn’t record a point over the final 1:55 of the game and missed its final seven shot attempts.
Now that is crunch time defense.
Key Box Score Line
Jeff Green was clutch Wednesday night, scoring seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics had no shot at winning this contest without the services of Leandro Barbosa.
Barbosa was called upon to replace Boston’s All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, after No. 9 suffered a right ankle sprain in the third quarter. All Barbosa did was toss in 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with two rebounds and three assists.
Barbosa’s point total wasn’t the only thing that was impressive. Equally impressive was also how he scored those points. The man who proclaims himself to be the Brazilian Blur lived up to the nickname Wednesday night by blowing past his defenders. Five of his six made field goals were scored in the paint with layups or runners off of the glass.
The Celtics have claimed all season that they have as much depth as any team in this league, if not more. Barbosa helped prove that point on Wednesday as he, the 10th man in the rotation, gracefully replaced an All-Star.
Box Score Nuggets
- The Celtics made exactly 50 percent (36-of-72) of their shot attempts.
- Both teams scored at least 20 points in each of the four quarters.
- Paul Pierce scored a game-high 23 points.
- Derrick Favors attempted a game-high 14 free throw attempts, which was at least double the amount of any individual Celtics player.
- Paul Millsap attempted a game-high 21 shots en route to his team-high 20 points.
- No Jazz player recorded more than five assists on the night.
- Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with eight rebounds.
- Rajon Rondo assisted on 10 straight Celtics baskets spanning from the second quarter to the third quarter.
- The Celtics were outrebounded 48-33, including a 18-4 edge for Utah in offensive rebounds.
- Al Jefferson grabbed a game-high 14 boards.
- Millsap (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Jefferson (13 points, 14 rebounds) were the only players in the game to log double-doubles.
- Rajon Rondo's streak of seven consecutive double-doubles ended Wednesday night, but his streak of consecutive games with at least 10 assists continued.
- Both teams shot at least 40 percent from 3-point range.
- Only one Celtics player, Brandon Bass (32:11), played more than 30 minutes.
- Both teams scored 44 points in the paint.
- Neither team led by more than eight points in the game.
Quote of the Night
He’s earned it. I tell everybody, 'Listen, we sign you, and you come, and there’s no guarantees that you’re going to play. But if you earn it, you get to play.' And he’s earned it. He deserves to play. Doc Rivers on Leandro Barbosa's playing time