Celtics swing past Jazz, 94-82

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Celtics swing past Jazz, 94-82

BOSTON The Boston Celtics couldn't rebound.

Again.

They couldn't bury a team when they first had a chance.

Again.

But they managed to make just enough plays when it mattered most, to pull out a win.

Again.

After seeing an 18-point lead smashed into nothing more than a four-point cushion in the third quarter, Boston came up with a slew of big plays in the fourth to extend their impressive play at home with a 94-82 win over Utah.

With the victory, Boston (28-22) moved back into a tie atop the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia.

Paul Pierce has been carrying much of the C's scoring load of late, and he once again had a big night scoring for the C's with 20 points.

But it was Kevin Garnett who had the hot hand, tallying a game-high 23 points to go with 10 rebounds for his team-best 16th double-double, while shooting 10-for-16 from the field.

Utah was led by Gordon Hayward's strong all-around game of 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two how-the-heck-did-he-do-that? blocks in the third quarter on an attempted lay-up by Keyon Dooling and a dunk attempt by Avery Bradley.

After leading by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, it was inevitable that the C's lead would dissipate some.

Indeed it did, as Utah went on a 17-3 run that cut Boston's lead to 64-60.

A pair of free throws by Pierce with 1:12 to play in the third pushed the C's lead back to six points.

But it was clear that Utah's size and rebounding dominance were having a major impact on the game as the Celtics took a 66-61 lead into the fourth.

Even with the challenges that Utah's size presented, the first quarter was once again one in which the Celtics got seemingly whatever shot they wanted.

But the difference on Wednesday?

Most of them didn't go in, which allowed the Utah Jazz to lead, 21-18 after the first.

In the second, Boston's shot-making was much-improved which allowed them to pull away and take control behind a commanding 46-35 halftime lead.

Playing without Ray Allen (ankle) for the fourth straight game, the C's got contributions from many.

At the half, Pierce and Brandon Bass led all scorers with 11 points each. The trigger man to that scoring, as usual, was Rajon Rondo who had four points to go along with his seven assists which were coming in both half-court sets as well as in transition. He finished with six points and a game-high 14 assists.

For the Jazz, it was par for the course in terms of their play on the road this season.

Utah (27-24) came into the game having won 11 more games at home (19) than on the road (8), the largest discrepancy in the NBA.

Among the Jazz players to struggle mightily in the first half was former Celtic Big Al Jefferson, who missed seven of his eight shots from the field. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting.

And the Celtics' biggest concern coming in -- rebounding -- was indeed proving to be an issue as Utah had a 28-16 advantage on the boards at the half. However, Boston was able to make sure Utah's board work didn't result in much damage on the scoreboard. For the game, Utah out-rebounded the C's, 49-38.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

TORONTO – The decision to stand pat at the trade deadline for the Boston Celtics was made in part because they felt that as their roster is constructed, they can hold their own with anybody.

We’re going to find out just how true that is tonight as they face a revamped Toronto Raptors team that added a couple of notable players via trade, chief among them being Serge Ibaka from Orlando.

“That was a really good trade for them,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “Bringing in a guy like Serge Ibaka; a defender, a four-man that can switch out on guards. A guy that can space the floor, shoot the 3.  So that was a good addition. I’m excited to see how that’s gonna work other than tomorrow.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was also impressed with the Ibaka trade.

“That’s an improvement; there’s no question about it,” Stevens said. “Now you can play a number of different ways. He’s a really good player; he’s very agile. He’s a very good shooter. You can play him or (Patrick) Patterson at the four (power forward) the entire game now. You can play them together as a small-ball four and five (center). It gives them a lot of options on offense and defense.”

While praise for Ibaka is nothing new, you have to remember there were reasons as to why the Magic decided to give up on him so quickly, something even more hard to understand considering the assets they gave up (Victor Olidipo and a 2016 first-round pick used to select Domantas Sabonis, among others) to acquire him.

The Magic decided that they would not be in the running to re-sign Ibaka when he hits the free agent market this summer; this coming after the Thunder traded him primarily because they did not plan on giving him the near-max contract he’ll be seeking. So rather than play out this season and lose him for nothing, the Magic decided to trade him while they still could get something (Terrence Ross) in return.

While in Orlando, Ibaka averaged a career-high 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game. For his career (all prior to this season spent in Oklahoma City), he’s averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

But he never seemed to provide the kind of impactful, difference-making play that Orlando was seeking.

And while the Celtics speak highly of Ibaka, he hasn’t been much of a problem for the Celtics this season.

In two games against Boston, Ibaka has averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Jae Crowder believes the struggles Ibaka has endured against the Celtics, are not a clear reflection of what he’s capable of doing as a player.

“For sure it makes them better,” said Crowder in describing the Raptors with Ibaka. “He’s a guy that can stretch the floor and rebound at a high rate. We know what he brings to the table.”

And those struggles we saw of him with the Magic?

“I think it was him more so than us,” Crowder said. “I give him credit because he wasn’t playing with the energy and passion he usually brings. I’ve been able to line up against him a quite a few times.  He didn’t have that passion like he did when he was in O-K-C (Oklahoma City). Maybe he’ll have it now. I know exactly what he’s capable of doing; he’s capable of changing the game with his play.”