Celtics survive fourth quarter to beat Jazz, 107-102

191544.jpg

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

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

Brown taking opportunities with Celtics as they come

BOSTON -- Compared to most high draft picks, Jaylen Brown doesn’t log a ton of minutes for the Boston Celtics.
 
Playing on an experienced team with legit hopes of making a deep playoff run, rookies seeing limited minutes is a given.
 
Knowing playing time will come in a limited supply, Brown understands all too well the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets on the floor.
 
He did just that on Saturday in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia, and he hopes to do more of the same on Monday when the Celtics take on the Houston Rockets.
 
When you look at Brown’s stat line, nothing about it looks impressive. He played 15 minutes, scored two points with one rebound and one blocked shot.
 
But beyond the stats was the fact that he was on the floor for seven minutes in the fourth quarter in a close back-and-forth game on the road. Rookies on the floor in crunch time is not the norm in the NBA.
 
“It means a lot,” Brown told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I try to be as best I can be for my team; try to put my best foot forward every night out.”
 
And he did just that on Saturday.
 
In the fourth quarter with the Celtics leading 87-83, Brown blocked a Gerald Henderson shot that wound up in the hands of Jae Crowder. Moments later, Jonas Jerebko hit a 3-pointer that gave the Celtics their largest lead of the game, 90-83.
 
And just two minutes prior to the blocked shot, he was out in transition following an Isaiah Thomas steal and threw down a dunk that pushed Boston’s lead to 86-83 with 7:11 to play.
 
Brown acknowledged making the most of those opportunities bodes well for him and the franchise.
 
“It’s great for our team in general; not just for me,” Brown said. “Those plays helped us to pull the game out in the end. So I’m glad we got the win. I think we should have played a little better than we did.”
 
The continued pursuit of self-improvement is a hallmark of what Brown’s focus and desire are at this stage of his pro career. He has talked often about not wanting to be just one of the best in this draft class but also one of the best in the NBA overall.
 
But he’s also learned that to get there takes time and experience developing both physically and mentally. Part of that mental growth entails having the right approach to games.
 
“Usually you try to tell yourself not to mess up,” Brown said. “Now that I’m getting more comfortable, it’s just play basketball, bring energy, things like that; come out and do what you’re supposed to do. A lot of times you try to tell yourself to not mess up and it’s counteractive; just come out and play basketball and have fun.”
 
And by doing so the minutes will come.
 
“You can’t control that. I just have to control what I can control,” Brown said. “I trust coach (Brad Stevens); I trust my coaching staff. I have to come out and in the minutes I get, play my hand as best I can and take advantage of what I do get and impact this team as much as possible.”
 
This season, Brown is averaging 4.8 points, 2.0 rebounds while shooting 41.9 percent from the field.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

MORE ON CELTICS-SIXERS

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”