Then the Celtics spoke up and vindicated their coach. They made their first 10 shots, stopped Utah from doing anything similar, and earned another dominating win over another playoff team, 125-97. Boston has won 21 of its last 24 games, with the vast majority about as lopsided as this one.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each had 26 points to lead the Celtics (46-28). Robert Williams had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Marcus Smart had 13 assists. The Celtics made 59% of their shots and 52.8% of their 3-pointers. The Celtics also dished out 37 assists, blocked 10 shots and held the Jazz to 22.2 percent shooting from 3 points.
Observations of the game:
⋅Tatum started the game by sweeping a 3-pointer from the left arc, and that proved to be a sign of things to come. Almost eight minutes passed before Boston missed a shot. It was 10-on-10 from the field, 6-on-6 from the 3-point line and 2-on-2 from the foul line before Brown missed a layup in progress with 4:05 remaining.
⋅It wasn’t just about players catching fire and hitting hard shots in isolation situations, though. The ball was moved quickly and with purpose, with Smart serving as the conductor. Boston had assists on 21 of 25 field goals in the first half, with Smart recording 10.
⋅ In the first half, the substitutes relied on their solid play from the road trip. Payton Pritchard drilled his two 3-pointers and rebounded offensively on two taller Jazz players before scoring inside. Derrick White whipped a go-oop pass to Robert Williams from beyond the 3-point line. Daniel Theis connected on a 3-pointer then stifled a dunk attempt from Jordan Clarkson, much to the delight of the crowd.
⋅ Any time a team shoots 62.5% from the field and 63.2% from the 3-point line in a half, as the Celtics did on Wednesday, the offense will draw the attention of all. But there can be a tendency to relax a bit at the other end of the field when every shot seems to fall, and the Celtics haven’t done that. The defense remained on a string. During one streak, Theis did well to tie Clarkson to the post. Clarkson then regained possession, and with Theis holding on, Pritchard sprinted and snatched the ball away.
⋅ There has been a lot of talk about possible Defensive Player of the Year nominations from Smart and Williams. On Wednesday, they faced a three-time winner in Jazz center Rudy Gobert, and certainly made their case. Williams had four blocks in three quarters, including a power streak. He crushed an Eric Paschall layup attempt in the stands and, on the same possession, blocked a Donovan Mitchell attempt at the rim.
Adam Himmelsbach can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.