The Celtics went blow for blow against the Jazz, the team with the best record in the league, but failed in a 117-109 loss Tuesday at TD Garden.
The Boston all-star duo kept their promises as Jayson Tatum had 29 points, six rebounds and three assists while Jaylen Brown had 28 points, five rebounds and seven assists. The Jazz responded with an All-Star line consisting of Mike Conley (17 points, five assists), Donovan Mitchell (21 points, five assists) and Rudy Gobert (16 points, 12 rebounds).
The Jazz built a nine-point lead behind, sprinting one run early in the fourth quarter. While the Celtics reduced the game to one point, the Jazz moved away from several 3-pointers to put the finishing touches on the game.
The Celtics fell to 20-19 over the season while the Jazz improved to 29-10.
Boston travels to face the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena. The Celtics go through a 14 day stretch of playing nine games.
Here are four observations of the Celtics’ loss to Jazz:
Tatum a key catalyst: Tatum’s situation was superb on Tuesday as he was a key part of the Celtics’ game. He looked like an All-Star himself as he reversed shots and flaunted some of his skills back and forth at both ends of the pitch.
Brilliant Tatum is still an advantage for the Celtics, but there were some negative effects that crept in throughout Tuesday’s game. Whenever Tatum took a break, the offense stalled and the Jazz could run away. Utah used a 10-2 run in the fourth quarter to pull away, creating a big hole for the Celtics.
The Jazz built their biggest lead of the game in the fourth quarter with nine points, keeping the Celtics at bay. Boston cut the game down to one point, but Mitchell and Conley made just enough 3 points to put the Celtics to bed.
Down with a great man: The Celtics were deprived of center Tristan Thompson on Tuesday because he was in league health and safety protocol. The NBA uses these protocols for coronavirus issues, although it cannot comment further for reasons of confidentiality.
Thompson’s absence meant a lot more to Daniel Theis and Robert Williams III. Theis was in the starting lineup while Semi Ojeleye took over Thompson’s vacant spot.
It was an exceptional game for Theis as he finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Williams had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Theis only played six minutes in the last game against the Rockets as the Celtics grew small. Boston coach Brad Stevens said the squad would likely be reduced to two big men in the rotation and the C’s have seen a bit of that, though they hope to get Thompson back soon.
Closing composition: The Celtics are healthier and that manifested in the closing roster against the Jazz. Stevens rode with a five-man group of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Tatum, Brown and Williams.
It’s a fan group being considered as Smart was sidelined with a calf injury. Smart is still making a comeback but finished with 25 minutes of play, a slight bump from the 20-minute mark in his first two return games. Smart didn’t play his best game, finishing with five points on a 2v10 shot, but started to look more comfortable in the game.
Favorable stretch: The Celtics have an exhausting schedule with a lot of games, but it’s not all bad. Boston has four straight games against teams with less than 500 records – a chance to chain wins and momentum.
The Celtics face the Cavs in their second straight game on Wednesday. They then play Sacramento, Orlando then Memphis in that order. Only the Grizzlies are in the top 10 of their respective conferences, which puts them in contention for the play-in match.
Boston is in Milwaukee for two games in three days (as part of the NBA’s attempt to cut travel), which should prove to be a tall order.