Jordan Clarkson helped Donovan Mitchell lead an impressive outing with 20 points off the bench for the Jazz, who are now 3-4 through their last seven games and 29-10 overall, still holding the top spot in the Western Conference.
As for the 20-19 Celtics, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 57 points.
- Jayson Tatum, Celtics: 29 PTS, 6 REB
- Jaylen Brown, Celtics: 28 PTS, 7 AST
- Jordan Clarkson, Jazz: 20 PTS
- Donovan Mitchell, Jazz: 21 PTS, 5 AST
Jazz Come Alive After Slow Start
Utah has struggled defensively over its recent rough patch. Heading into Tuesday's game, the Jazz were tied for the league's sixth-worst defensive rating dating back to Feb. 26, per NBA Advanced Stats. That's a departure from the norm, as they have the third-best defensive rating over the full season.
At the start of Tuesday's game, that showed, as the Jazz allowed the Celtics to run out to an 18-7 lead by the time there was under five minutes left in the first quarter.
That seemed to be the wake-up call, as they quickly answered by upping their game on the glass. By the end of the first quarter, they crawled out of the hole to trail 22-20.
While Boston shot an impressive 59.5 percent from the field in the opening half, the Jazz outshot them from deep—hitting 10 of 22 attempts compared to three of 12 for Boston—and the slight edge gave them the 54-53 advantage at the break after an 11-2 run.
That strength from beyond the arc came from the bench, though that's not a surprise as the Jazz entered the night with the eighth-leading bench in the league.
Clarkson paced all scorers in the first half with 14 points in 16 minutes off the bench, with 5-of-9 shooting and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Joe Ingles shot 3-of-5 from deep to rack up 11 points in his 12 minutes of action.
Their productivity in the first half made up for a horrific showing from Bogdan Bogdanovic, who missed his lone shot attempt and had two rebounds and an assist but led all players with three turnovers heading into the second half. He ended up finding five points in the third.
Another three-pointer from Clarkson kick-started a 13-2 run by the Jazz to open the fourth quarter, answering the Celtics' similar run to end the third quarter.
The Jazz entered Tuesday off a less-than-ideal stretch, but their ability to come back from their early deficit will be the key to staying competitive as the second half draws on.
Small-Ball Celtics Get Beat in the Details
Boston was without its top rebounder Tuesday, as the team announced pregame that Tristan Thompson would miss the game due to the league's health and safety protocols.
The COVID-19 protocols also affected depth behind Brown and Tatum at the forward position, with second-year Romeo Langford out for the same reason. But the team has managed without Langford all season, as he underwent wrist surgery that postponed his 2020-21 debut.
Thompson is another story. Since joining the team on a two-year, $19 million deal this offseason, he has appeared in 36 games and averaged 7.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. Semi Ojeleye got the start in his place, and he was a non-factor throughout, ending the night without any points through 19 minutes. Behind him, Grant Williams recorded just two points, and the hole in the lineup was felt more so than expected.
Daniel Theis was a surprise at center with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Celtics were already planning to play a smaller game even before losing their big, and they kept the Jazz unsteady through the start of the game, forcing eight turnovers in the first 12 minutes—the most by the Jazz in the opening frame this season, per Chris Grenham of Forbes.
Brown paced the team with 12 points, followed by a pair of 11-point scorers in Tatum and Theis, but the group struggled to defend Utah from far out and never had a foul called in their favor, while Utah hit six of seven free throws in the first two quarters.
Boston started to lose steam in the third as the Jazz found their footing in the paint, but they ended the quarter on an 11-2 run that highlighted how crucial the free throws and three-pointers really were in this game.
The comeback was highlighted by a Tatum sequence late in the third, the two-time All-Star hit a three and then a free throw for the Celtics to take a quick lead, which was secured with a three from Marcus Smart. But they couldn't hold on to open the fourth, allowing a 13-2 run to the Jazz.
In the end, the closeness of the game came down to Utah's consistency on the bench and from the line, as the Jazz bench combined to score 45 points compared to 21 from Boston's reserves. The Celtics took just four shots from the line, and while they hit three of them, it was no match for Utah's 22-of-24 free-throw shooting and 19-of-43 from deep—nearly double the production from the arc by the Celtics.
The Celtics are headed to Cleveland for a Wednesday tip with the Cavaliers (8 p.m. ET).
The Jazz will continue their East Coast swing with a Thursday meeting against the Washington Wizards (7 p.m. ET).