Celtics Edged by Jazz Despite Best Offensive Effort of Season

The Boston Celtics put forth their best offensive effort of the season Friday night, but even their best wasn’t good enough against the top offense in the league.

Boston erupted for 130 points against the Utah Jazz, marking its highest offensive output in regulation this season despite missing second-leading scorer Jaylen Brown due to hamstring tightness. It was also the second-highest point total allowed in regulation by the Jazz on their home court in the last 35 seasons.

The only way to overcome such a monumental offensive effort was for Utah to put forth a historic shooting performance of its own, as it knocked down a franchise-record 27 3-pointers on 51 attempts, en route to a 137-130 win at Vivint Arena.

"To only lose by seven with a team shooting that hot, it shows our effort and the way we played hard tonight," Celtics head coach Ime Udoka said after the game.

The C’s managed to outscore Utah 105-99 during the final three frames, but a 38-25 first quarter came back to haunt them in the end.

Although the Jazz also scored 41 points in the third quarter and 37 in the fourth, Udoka felt that the opening frame was the only period during which his team struggled defensively.

“By letting them get confidence and get going early, they hurt us later down the stretch,” the coach said. “To get up 51 (3-point attempts) and make 27, it’s going to be hard to win any night. We scored obviously plenty of points, 130 ourselves, so they didn’t stop us exactly either, but to not take that away early in the game helped them get a rhythm, helped carry them through the game. Just felt we weren’t as aggressive as we were later in the game and by that time they were in rhythm, making shots, hitting tough contested shots and, credit to them later in the game, because we did defend better, but they were pretty much on fire.”

As hot as Utah was from 3-point range, the Celtics were just as scolding from inside the arc. Boston shot 33-of-52 (63.5 percent) from 2-point range and a perfect 22-for-22 from the free-throw line.

The C’s scored 50 points inside the paint, giving them 72 points from the free-throw line-in.

Jayson Tatum accounted for 32 of those 72 points, as he scored 21 inside the arc while also going 11-for-11 from the charity stripe. Tatum finished with 37 points and zero turnovers, marking the third performance of his career of scoring at least 35 points while not committing any turnovers. Only Larry Bird has logged more such efforts in franchise history, finishing with four in his 13-year Hall-of-Fame career.

Boston also had strong performances from Dennis Schröder (26 points), Al Horford (21 points, six rebounds, nine assists), Marcus Smart (15 points, four steals), and Josh Richardson (11 points, two steals off the bench).

“I was so proud of our group tonight because, when [Utah was making threes], we were just going right back at ‘em, attacking them,” said Horford. “In the past, I feel like that could’ve rattled us when they got it going early like that, it could’ve gone a different way. We tightened up, we kept fighting. Tonight was just one of those nights that I’ve never been a part of – a team hitting that many threes like that. And especially the type of threes – they weren’t necessarily all open; they were tough, contested threes. And it was definitely tough, but I felt that the group didn’t get discouraged.”

After trailing by as many as 14 points, Boston battled back and took its first lead midway through the third quarter. The C’s were ahead by four points with just over four minutes remaining in the game, but Utah closed out on a 23-12 run.

“No question about it, it’s tough,” Horford said of the loss. “But I feel like we gave ourselves a chance to win the game there. For some reason, early on they started out hot. We got into them defensively and I think that helped us. But they just kind of outpaced us. Obviously we want to win the game, but offensively we can look at it and take some positives from it because (that was) probably our best offensive game this year.”

The Celtics will look to build upon their offensive momentum Saturday night in Portland, where they will close out their back-to-back against the second-worst defense in the league.


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