By A.Sherrod Blakely
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."