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The Celtics suffered two rare losses Thursday night against the Jazz. They held a 66-60 lead after the third quarter and by as much as 11. Then, Utah outscored Boston 30-19 in the fourth while shooting 12-17 from the field to earn the comeback win, 90-85. How did the Celtics manage to blow the lead?
Well, they played the entire second half without their best defender, Kevin Garnett, who left the game with a right knee strain after a botched alley-oop. Garnett warmed up before the second half, but was held out as a precaution. He said after the game that his knee will be re-examined Friday.
“We should have more information at that time. Obviously, I would much rather be playing instead of giving this statement,” said Garnett, who finished with eight points and two rebounds.
The Celtics can also blame their Achilles heel: turnovers and sloppy play. Boston turned it over 19 times and went just 19-29 from the FT line. Those numbers won’t help a team win many games.
Their defense was strong, and as Doc Rivers said, it “gave us a chance to win the game.” He’s right, but even turnovers and inefficient FT shooting can kill a team.
Kendrick Perkins and Leon Powe stepped up in Garnett’s place in the paint. Perk finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocked shots. Powe contributed nine points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes off the bench.
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points, nine rebounds, and three steals. Utah bench player Matt Harping, who scored eight points including the tie-breaking jumper with a minute remaining, played lock down defense on Pierce in the fourth. He drew an offensive foul and held the Celtics captain to 2-9 shooting in the final frame.
The Celtics, with or without Kevin Garnett, will get a chance to bounce back against the Suns on Sunday.