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Kevin Garnett had 23 points and 10 rebounds, outlasting the 19 points and 12 rebounds from former Celtic Al Jefferson, as the Boston Celtics defeated the Utah Jazz 94-82 Wednesday night at the TD Garden.
The victory ensures that the Celtics remain in a tie with the Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic division.
Paul Pierce had 20 points and Brandon Bass chimed in with 19 for the Celtics. Rajon Rondo found his teammates all night en route to a 14-assist outing that included two nice alley oops to new running mate Ryan Hollins.
Boston led by 11 at the half and increased their lead to 18 midway through the third quarter before Utah struck back. The Jazz closed the period on a 18-5 run sparked by 10 third-quarter points from Jefferson.
Celtic reserve guards Keyon Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic each hit timely fourth-quarter three-pointers to put the contest out of the Jazz reach for good. The pair combined for 12 points, four rebounds and three assists to go along with the crucial defense and energy they provided off the bench.
Second-year guard Gordon Hayward impressed for the Jazz with 19 points, seven boards, five assists and a pair of blocks. Hayward led the Butler Bulldogs to a Cinderella appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball championship game in 2010.
Ray Allen sat for a fourth straight game with a sore ankle, leaving Doc Rivers no choice but to play Avery Bradley a season-high 43 minutes. Bradley has started the last three games at shooting guard for the Celtics. The Celtics are 9-4 this season when Bradley starts.
With Orlando, Atlanta and Indiana all losing Wednesday, the Celtics increased their chances of a decent playoff seeding even without winning the Atlantic division. The Celtics currently trail the Hawks by just one game. The Celtics already own the tiebreaker over the Magic, and they can earn tiebreakers over Atlanta and Indiana later in the season.
Boston travels to Minnesota for a chance at a four straight victories when they face off against Kevin Love and the Timberwolves Friday night.