Smart, Exum Duel As Celtics Fall to Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY – A battle between two 2014 lottery picks highlighted Monday night’s matchup between the Celtics and the Jazz.
Dante Exum, last year’s fifth overall pick, scored 20 points to lead Utah to a 100-82 win over Marcus Smart, who was chosen sixth overall by Boston a year ago.
Smart opened the game with a fury. He looked like the best player on the court while scoring 15 first-half points, including six from behind the arc.
Boston rallied around Smart’s play at both ends of the court during the first 17 minutes of action. The C’s pulled ahead 34-24 with 7:24 left in the second period after Terry Rozier dropped in a beautiful runner off the glass from just outside the right side of the paint.
At that time, Exum had notched only one point in the scoring column. But that number quickly escalated, as did Utah’s play as a whole.
Exum scored nine of the game’s next 14 points off of a myriad of shots. Exum and his teammates accounted for all 14 of those points to take a 36-34 lead, and they never trailed from that point on.
The Jazz finished the first half on a 27-6 run and took a 51-40 lead into halftime. Their lead grew to as many as 20 points during the fourth quarter en route to a decisive 18-point victory.
Utah’s prized point guard finished the night with 20 points, 18 of which were scored during the game's first three quarters. Exum checked out of the game with 1:50 remaining on the clock and his team leading 94-78.
His second-year partner in the backcourt, Rodney Hood, also put forth an outstanding effort. Hood led the Jazz in scoring with 23 points thanks in large part to his 15-point performance during the final period.
Boston had strong performances of its own, but it will look back at this game as a missed opportunity. Not only did the C’s lead by double-digits during the second quarter, but they were also within striking distance early in the fourth quarter. Jonathan Holmes canned a 3-pointer with 9:30 left on the clock to make it a five-point game, and Boston trailed by only six points with 7:16 remaining in the contest.
However, Smart and the C’s did not have enough to overcome Utah’s strong backcourt performance. Boston struggled to put the ball through the basket while making poor decisions across the board. The team shot only 40.8 percent from the field on the night.
“We got a little tired,” said Jay Larranaga, who is the Celtics head coach during the Utah Summer League. “We started to take some more difficult shots, and they were able to convert that to some fast break layups and it affected our defense.”
Smart did his best to help his team overcome the fatigue. He scored a game-high 26 points, including an impressive 12-of-13 performance from the free-throw line. He also dished out a game-high eight assists while tallying five boards, two steals and a blocked shot. Jordan Mickey also provided 16 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots during his first appearance with the Celtics.
Boston will attempt to jump into the win column Tuesday night when it takes on another lottery pick in Jahlil Okafor, who was chosen third overall by Philadelphia nearly two weeks ago. The Celtics and 76ers will tip off at 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on NBA TV.