Thomas, Olynyk lead Celtics past Jazz 112-104
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Boston never found a shot it couldn’t make against Utah.
At least that’s how it seemed all night.
The Celtics picked apart the Jazz’s defense with surgical precision. Crisp passes. Clean cuts to the rim. Open shots. It added up to a near-perfect offensive performance in a 112-104 victory over Utah on Saturday night.
Once Boston uncovered a formula that worked well against Utah’s defense, the Celtics became virtually unstoppable on the bulk of their possessions. They shot 42 of 71 (59 percent) from the field and made 13 3-pointers en route to their ninth win in their last 10 games.
”We know they’re a really good defensive team, but we know if we can move the ball side to side, we can get their bigs out of the paint,” guard Isaiah Thomas said. ”We attacked them in there and guys made shots.”
Thomas scored 29 points and Kelly Olynyk added 19 off the bench. Gerald Green and Al Horford each chipped in 16 points, and Horford also had eight rebounds.
The Celtics (35-19) swept the season series with Utah after beating the Jazz 115-104 on Jan. 3.
Gordon Hayward scored 31 points and George Hill added 22 to lead the Jazz, who could not overcome poor shooting and struggled to get defensive stops during critical stretches.
Hayward said Utah responded poorly to some of the pick-and-roll plays Boston ran and it made things easier than they should have been for the Celtics’ offense.
”We just didn’t execute what we were trying to do,” Hayward said. ”Because of that, they got open looks from three and at the rim and they knocked them down. I felt like every time we made a run, they hit a dagger and put it back up to 15 or 16 points or whatever.”
Boston, which never trailed, stayed a step ahead of the Jazz throughout the first quarter behind hot shooting. The Celtics scored on their first three possessions, culminating in a dunk from Amir Johnson, to set the tone for a half in which they shot 24 of 36 (66.7 percent) from the field.
The Jazz could not stop Boston from attacking the paint early and finding a quick rhythm both inside and outside. Olynyk gave the Celtics their first double-digit lead at 33-23 when he finished off the quarter with a 3-pointer and a buzzer-beating layup.
The Jazz whittled the deficit down to 37-30 on a dunk from Derrick Favors early in the second quarter. Boston answered with a 10-0 run to blow the game open before halftime. Green kickstarted the run with three straight baskets. Thomas finished it off with a pair of free throws to put the Celtics up 47-30 with 5:28 remaining in the half.
Utah pulled within single digits again during the third quarter. The Jazz trimmed their deficit to 64-56 on a reverse dunk from Rudy Gobert. Olynyk quickly countered with a 3-pointer and then James Young followed with a running layup and another three to push the Celtics’ lead to 72-58.
”They’re a tough team,” Olynyk said. ”They’re tall, long players who can shoot the ball and make plays inside. (But) we’re a team that spreads guys out and they’re a team that clogs the paint, so it kind of counteracts each other.”
Boston extended its lead to 85-65 after opening the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run. Thomas fueled the run by feeding Horford for a 3-pointer and then burying one of his own on the ensuing possession.
The Jazz made one final rally, cutting the Celtics’ lead to 108-102 on a corner 3 from Hayward with 22 seconds left. Horford and Marcus Smart each hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.
”I thought we were going to need all 13 (players) and I think we’re still going to need all 13,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. ”It was a really good win with a lot of guys stepping up and playing well.”
Celtics: Boston doubled up Utah on points in the paint in the first half, holding a 28-14 advantage. … G/F Gerald Green scored 14 points in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting. Green came in averaging 5.2 points per game. … F Jaylon Brown left with a hip strain in the second quarter and did not return. Brown totaled two points and four rebounds in 11 minutes.
Jazz: Utah made just 12 field goals in the second and third quarters combined. The Jazz shot 12 of 44 (27.3 percent) from the field over that span. … C Rudy Gobert finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds to notch his 37th double-double this season. Gobert also had a blocked shot, giving him an NBA-best 52 games with at least one block this season.
Celtics: Travel to Dallas to take on the surging Mavericks on Monday. Dallas has won two straight games and six of its last eight to move within two games of eighth place Denver.
Jazz: host the Clippers on Monday in a critical game for the Western Conference playoff picture. Los Angeles trails Utah by a half-game for fourth place in the West.
This story has been corrected to fix final score in 3rd paragraph to Celtics 112, Jazz 104.