Mike Conley Drops 25 to Lead Jazz Past Jayson Tatum, Injury-Riddled Celtics

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2020

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 6:  Mike Conley #10 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Boston Celtics on March 6, 2020 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE  (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are starting to put it all together.

Led by another strong performance from Mike Conley, the Jazz traveled to Boston and defeated the Celtics 99-94 on Friday night at the TD Garden. 

The Celtics came into the game short-handed, missing a pair of key starters in Jaylen Brown (hamstring strain) and Gordon Hayward (knee contusion). It was the second straight game both players missed. 

"Just trying to gain some ground every single day, gain some more mobility back, things like that to try to heal," Brown said before the game, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. "Giving it some time to heal. Hamstrings are tough. Try to work through the soft tissue to make sure I get a full healthy recovery."

The win was the fourth in a row for the 40-22 Jazz, moving them into fourth place in the Western Conference. It also continued their incredibly streaky play in 2020:

Boston slipped to 42-20 with the loss but remains third in the East. 

                

Key Stats 

Mike Conley, UTA: 25 points, five assists, 6-of-10 from three

Marcus Smart, BOS: 29 points

Donovan Mitchell, UTA: 11 points, four rebounds

Kemba Walker, BOS: 13 points, seven assists

Jordan Clarkson, UTA: 17 points

Jayson Tatum, BOS: 18 points, seven rebounds

                

Jazz Need Mike Conley to Continue His Recent Surge 

In Utah's four-game winning streak, Conley has played at a higher level than he's offered for much of the 2019-20 season:

  • 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, 45.5 field-goal percentage in a 129-119 win over the Washington Wizards.
  • 15 points, six assists, 50 percent field-goal percentage in a 126-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • 17 points, six assists, 66.7 field-goal percentage in a 112-104 win over the New York Knicks
  • 25 points, five assists, 56.2 field-goal percentage vs. the Celtics

The Jazz don't need Conley to be the top option on offense. Mitchell normally has that covered. But coming into the game, Conley's averages almost across the board were down from last year, most notably his scoring (13.6 PPG compared to 21.1 PPG last year) and playmaking (4.3 APG compared to 6.4 APG last year).

If Conley can continue playing at the level the Jazz were expecting when they acquired him before the season, they'll be a very tough out in the postseason. The team has to be pleased with his recent level of play as the regular season hits the home stretch. 

                 

Marcus Smart Couldn't Make Up for the Absence of Brown and Hayward

On a night when Walker and Tatum combined to shoot just 12-36 from the field—and Brown and Hayward were unavailable—Smart did his past to pick up the slack. It wasn't the most efficient performance, with Smart shooting just 9-of-23 from the field and 6-of-15 from three. 

Generally speaking, Smart shooting 15 threes in a game is a recipe for disaster. 

But on Friday, Boston needed Smart's offense, and he did his best to oblige. Against a team of Utah's caliber, however, missing two key starters and having two others struggle from the field was simply too much to overcome. 

             

What's Next?

The Jazz travel to Detroit to face the Pistons on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, while the Celtics will host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. 

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