Celtics keep Jazz out of tune, 110-86

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Celtics keep Jazz out of tune, 110-86

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON So much for the much anticipated point guard duel between Boston's Rajon Rondo and Utah's Deron Williams.

This matchup was never really close, much like the game which the Celtics won easily, 110-86.

Boston (33-9), winners of five in a row - all at home - set the tone with a 7-2 spurt to start the game, with all three of the Celtics baskets coming on assists.

For the game, Boston had 31 assists on 37 made baskets, the kind of assist-to-basket made ratio seldom achieved.

"It's just a product of our work," said Paul Pierce, who had 20 points. "Everyday we come in here and that's what we work on. We work on making the passes, running our offense. Believing in one another, not caring who gets the credit. When you have a selfless group like this, that's what happens."

It didn't hurt that Williams picked up two quick personal fouls.

"Two quick fouls - two quick calls I should say - took me out of (the) game," said Williams, who had a season-low five points on 1-for-4 shooting from the field. "And (I) couldn't really recover."

Rondo getting Williams into foul trouble wasn't exactly the plan coming into the game.

Considering the extra time Rondo put in prior to the game breaking down Williams on video, it's not surprising that Rondo recognized one or two of Williams' tendencies, and exploited them to the C's advantage.

"That's typical Rondo," said Kevin Garnett, who led all scorers with 21 points. "Rondo is one of the biggest students of the game on our team. When you are playing against players that can take a game over and are the leaders of teams, tonight, he (Rondo) just D'd up. You tend to know the other guy, especially Rondo. We have a lot of guys that are prideful around here and when we play that player, whoever it is, we all have them. He was a little focused tonight. That's typical dodo (Rondo); he's going to watch film, he's going to know their sets, their calls and he was more than ready tonight."

Friday wasn't one of Rondo's best games of the season, as he finished with four points and 12 assists.

But it was more than enough to position the Celtics for a surprisingly easy win over a Jazz team (26-16) that has now lost three in a row.

"They showed us what basketball is like tonight," said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. "They came out and played a terrific game, they took us out of our offense; we couldn't do anything of what we were trying to do."

Sloan added, "I didn't think we competed that hard. That's been our problem the past few games, we really struggle by being able to get out and get after people, cause you can see what it does to a team. We just happened to be the recipient of it tonight."

One of the few bright spots for the Jazz was no one, really.

Andrei Kirilenko had 11 points and seven rebounds, but his points and board-work were never a factor in the game's outcome.

Former Celtic Al Jefferson, who got a warm applause from the Celtics faithful when introduced with the starters, also struggled.

He finished with seven points while missing 10 of his 11 shots from the field.

The only downside for the C's was that Shaquille O'Neal suffered a right leg injury that prevented him from returning in the second half. He did not travel with the team to Washington.

In addition to the Wizards game on Saturday, there's a chance that O'Neal won't play against Cleveland on Tuesday, either.

"It just locked up on me," O'Neal told CSNNE.com moments after the C's victory. "I'll be alright."

His replacement, Semih Erden, had a career-high 14 points along with seven rebounds.

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

Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

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Horford believes Celtics give him best chance at 'ultimate goal' of NBA Championship

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Pinpointing the exact moment Al Horford made up his mind to become a Boston Celtics isn’t clear, but the seeds of that decision can be traced back to last year’s playoffs – and no we’re not talking about the playoff series between Boston and Atlanta, either.
 
It was the Hawk’s second-round playoff series back in May against Cleveland, a team that swept them out of the Conference finals in 2015 and did so again last about five months ago.
 
Horford had every intention of returning to Atlanta, but as the free agency period wore on two things became quite clear: Winning an NBA title would have to go through Cleveland and it happening with him in Atlanta was becoming more and more unlikely.
 
In came the Celtics with a pitch that was heavy on present-day and down-the-road potential that wouldn’t require him to do anything other than continue to play the way he has for the past nine seasons.
 
“It (becoming a Celtic) became real for me real late and real quick,” Horford told CSNNE.com on Wednesday.
 
After mulling it over for a couple days, Horford said he was ready to become a Celtic.
 
“This could be a great opportunity even though I’m leaving a lot behind,” Horford said.
 
As you listen to Horford speak, it’s clear that the Celtics mystique played a role in his decision to sign with Boston.

 But as much as the Celtics’ lore and its on-the-rise status helped, there were certain events that Boston had no control over that actually helped their cause.
 
First the Hawks got in on a three-team trade in June with Utah and Indiana which sent Hawks All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Pacers while Atlanta received Utah’s first-round pick which was 12th overall and was used by Atlanta to select Baylor’s Taurean Prince. The move allowed Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder to slide over into the now-vacant starting point guard position.
 
While it may help Atlanta down the road, it did little to move them closer towards knocking off Cleveland anytime soon.
 
And then there was the Hawks coming to terms on a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Dwight Howard early in the free agency period. That deal coupled with Atlanta’s desire to bring Kent Bazemore back, cast serious doubt as to whether Horford would return.
 
Horford, who inked a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston, told CSNNE.com that at the time of Atlanta’s deal with Howard, he was still open to the idea of returning.
 
But if Horford did, he knew figuring out the best way to play him, Howard and Paul Millsap who by the way has a player option that he’s likely to exercise which would make him a free agent next summer, was not going to be easy.

“It was definitely going to be different,” Horford said, then adding, “For me, the Celtics were becoming more and more a realistic option. After talking with my family, we felt this was the best for me.”
 
And while it’s still very early in his tenure as a Celtic, Horford has no regrets or second thoughts about his decision.
 
“As a player you always want to be in the best position you can,” Horford said. “I felt for me being on this team would put me in a position to be able to contend and win an NBA championship. That’s my ultimate goal.”
 
And that alone makes him a good fit with this franchise which from ownership to the front office to the coaching staff and of course the players, are all focused on one thing and that’s bringing home Banner 18.
 
 “Look at the resume. He’s been a winner wherever he’s played,” said Boston’s Amir Johnson. “It’s good to have a guy like that, with his talent and with his winning, playing next to you.”