NBA

Jazz vs. Celtics takeaways: Utah catches fire from 3-point land, holds off Boston down the stretch

Tuesday night’s NBA slate was highlighted by an East-West showdown between the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz, and it lived up to the billing. After a competitive 48 minutes, the Jazz held on down the stretch to come away with a 117-109 victory

As per usual, the Jazz were powered by their elite 3-point attack. They went 19-for-43 from downtown, and everyone besides centers Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors made a 3. Jordan Clarkson led the way with 20 points off the bench, while Donovan Mitchell went for 19 points and hit a clutch triple down the stretch.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were on point for the Celtics, combining for 57 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. But as has too often been the story for Boston this season, they didn’t have enough help. In particular, Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart combined for just 21 points after shooting just 9-for-26 from the field.

Here are three key takeaways from the game:

1. Utah’s 3-point mastery continues

Last week, we saw the Celtics lose a competitive game to the Nets in large part because they got destroyed in the 3-point battle and simply couldn’t score enough points to make up that difference. On Tuesday night it was the same story, as the Jazz outscored the Celtics by 27 points from beyond the arc. 

For the season, the Jazz take and make the most 3s per game in the league, and are third in 3-point percentage at 39.6. All of that despite the fact that they don’t have one player who fans might think of as a 3-point specialist — though Joe Ingles is fourth in the league at 46.1 percent.

In fact, Ingles and Mike Conley are the only two Jazz players in the top 40 in that category this season. But the fact that their attack is so varied is a part of what makes them so difficult to guard. Besides Gobert and Favors, who just don’t venture outside, everyone on the Jazz is a capable shooter. When seven different rotation players are shooting over 37 percent from 3, it makes it extremely difficult for opposing defenses. 

We saw that in action in this game, as everyone besides Gobert and Favors hit at least one 3, and Ingles, Clarkson, Mitchell and Mike Conley all hit at least three of them. 

2. Celtics’ supporting cast too inconsistent

This has been a strange season for the Celtics. They’ve battled injuries and COVID-19, tried to implement new players and rolled out over a dozen different starting lineups. But there has been at least one constant over the past few months: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are going to show up. 

They certainly did against the Jazz. Scoring, defending, getting others involved, it was pretty much everything you want from your two best players. When the final buzzer sounded, the duo combined for 57 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals. Unfortunately for Boston, they didn’t get enough help.

Daniel Theis and Robert Williams had solid games, but no one besides “The Jays” scored more than 16 points, and the bench combined for just 21. Compare that to the Jazz, who got 45 points from their reserves. All season long, this has been an issue for the Celtics. They have a high ceiling, but it’s hard to be consistent when you don’t know what you’re getting from the supporting cast on a nightly basis. 

Sure, some of that is the injuries and absences and all the different roles players have had to fill, but some of it is the bench just isn’t that great — at least not from an offensive standpoint. For the season, the Celtics rank No. 26 in the league in bench scoring, averaging just 32.9 points per game. Finding some help in that area will be a key goal for president Danny Ainge leading up to the trade deadline on March 25. 

3. Jazz start East-coast swing in style

The Jazz started off the season in dominant fashion, and after a 25-point win over the Lakers in late February they boasted a 26-6 record. Since then, they’ve faltered a bit, and coming into the matchup with the Celtics had lost four out of six games on either side of the All-Star break.

That included a loss to the Warriors on Sunday, which started a five-game road trip for the Jazz. As they made their way to the East coast, they were facing their first real bit of adversity all season. So it was quite impressive to see them grind out a difficult win against the Celtics — especially after they got down by double digits almost immediately. 

With the win, the Jazz improved to 29-10, which is still the best record in the league. And now that they have the game against the Celtics out of the way, they have a chance to rack up some more wins on this trip and strengthen their position in the race for homecourt advantage. The Wizards, Raptors and Bulls are their remaining games before heading back home, and they are all very beatable. 



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