Celtics survive fourth quarter to beat Jazz, 107-102

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Celtics survive fourth quarter to beat Jazz, 107-102

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

SALT LAKE CITY It's been a tumultuous week for the Boston Celtics.

One of their leaders, Kendrick Perkins, was traded to Oklahoma City.

Coach Doc Rivers left the team briefly to be with his ill mother in Chicago.

Delonte West was finally getting comfortable with his now-healed broken right wrist, but then he suffered a right ankle sprain that kept him out of Monday's game against Utah.

Even with all the setbacks, the C's continued to show the kind of resolve that has made them one of the NBA's elite teams this season.

It certainly came in handy on Monday as the Celtics were able to fend off the scrappy Utah Jazz and escape with a 107-102 win.

"I appreciate every time we play, with all the stuff we have going on," said Rivers. "Injuries, the trades . . . I appreciate this team. They just tend to find a way to win games. That has to bode well for us later, when we get everybody together."

For now, the Celtics will continue to cut and paste together lineups that, regardless of the opponent, somehow manage to make enough plays when needed.

"This has been very satisfying," said Paul Pierce. "Coming in, it's been a long trip, especially for the guys that were in the All-Star game. It's been a very challenging trip, mentally, physically, so this is a big win."

Pierce added, "It's one of our biggest road wins of the year so far."

Coming up with big wins, home or away, has been among the many reasons why the Celtics (43-15) have been atop the Eastern Conference standings for most of this season.

Even though they have a totally new look, both in terms of their players and their head coach, beating the Jazz on their home floor is never an easy task.

Although Utah spent most of Monday trailing, there was never a point in the game when the Jazz seemed out of it.

They gave the Celtics all they could handle, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

Boston went into the fourth with a four-point lead, but the Jazz went ahead 84-83 following a dunk by newly acquired big man Derrick Favors.

The Jazz faithful were up cheering their team, only to be quieted 19 seconds later when Rajon Rondo scored on a driving lay-up.

Favors, who had nine points off the bench, put Utah ahead with 7:36 to play.

That lead didn't last long, as Glen Davis made a pair of free throws just 20 seconds later to put the Celtics back on top.

It was clear that this game was going to come down to the wire, with 8 of the 10 lead changes coming in the fourth quarter.

Pierce, who had 21 points, put the game away with a pair of free throws with 11.8 seconds remaining.

And with those free throws, the C's capped off their four-game West Coast trip with a 3-1 record.

You can count Kevin Garnett, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds, among those pleased with the way the Celtics responded to what was one of the more trying weeks since he arrived in Boston in 2007.

"It's been a crazy week. Know what I mean?" Garnett said.

Even though Garnett has welcomed his new teammates, it's clear that it's going to take him some time to get past not having Kendrick Perkins around anymore.

"People don't really think about the emotions, the connections you make in this game, the friends you make on this journey in which you're in the league," Garnett said. "It's difficult at times, to be honest. But you have to separate the two, come out and perform at a high level and you have no excuses."

Even with all the injuries and issues on and off the court, the Celtics have refused to allow those to get in the way of what really matters: winning games.

And Monday's victory over Utah was the latest example of this.

"We just found a way to win," Pierce said. "It wasn't the prettiest win. But we'll take it."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

Wizards to Celtics: We're going to bury you

The last time Boston played at Washington, the Wizards buried them by 25 points.

It seems the Wizards have a similar mindset for Tuesday’s game which will feature every Wizards playing showing up in all-black.

“You know where we’re going with that,” Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. told the Washington Post’s Candace Buckner.

Yes.

We do.

But in case anyone wasn’t sure, let John Wall put the cookies on the bottom shelf for you and explain in succinct terms.

“A fun-er-ral!” he said with the man who thought this up, Bradley Beal, in the background yelling, “Yaa!”

The Celtics players acknowledged that Tuesday’s game would most likely be a physical, trash-talking affair.

That stems from their matchup two weeks ago that included a lot of physical play both teams that ultimately ended with the Celtics coming away with a 117-108 win.

ROUND ONE: THE JANUARY 11 GAME

Bradley Beal was whistled for a flagrant-one foul against Marcus Smart that seemed to get both benches hyped up.

Those two have a history dating back to last season when Smart, while driving to the basket, landed his left forearm across Beal’s face. The blow resulted in Beal’s nose being broken in addition to being put in the league’s concussion protocol program.

And after the Jan. 11 game, Jae Crowder and John Wall had a heated exchange of words that ended with Crowder’s pushing his finger into Wall’s nose, and Wall retaliating by slapping Crowder’s face.

The league fined Crowder $25,000 and Wall $15,000 for their roles in the incident.

“It’s going to be a competitive game,” Wall said. “Hopefully everybody just keep it clean and … makes it one of those great battles.”

Said Beal: “We want to keep it clean as much as possible but we know it’ll probably get chippy, a little trash talking.”

Isaiah Thomas, who was whistled for a technical foul in the Jan. 11 game, understands emotions will run pretty high in Tuesday’s game.

 “You just have to be ready for whatever comes our way,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to shy away from it. But we’re all human. There will probably be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things to carry over to tomorrow’s game. But the most important thing is we just have to try and take care of business.”