SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – This was as tough of a loss as the Utah Jazz have suffered all season long.
Leading for most of the second half, the Jazz playoff hopes took a hit as Jaylen Brown drilled a 3-pointer with .3 seconds left to give the Boston Celtics a 97-94 victory.
A victory would have propelled the Jazz into the 5th seed in the Western Conference, but instead they fall back to the 8th spot with seven games remaining.
“We guarded the initial play,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “They were trying to seal us to get to the rim and we defended it. We had two guys run at the shooter and [Brown] got free. They did a great job making the extra pass and finding the open guy. We defended at the outset well, but we were in a scramble situation, and we couldn’t get to the shooter.”
Brown scored 21 points and Jayson Tatum added 16 for the Celtics, who won their fifth straight despite a short-handed roster. Terry Rozier chipped in 13 points.
With Kyrie Irving out after knee surgery, and Marcus Morris and Al Horford both sidelined with ankle injuries, the Celtics finished a 4-0 trip to the West in what would have been Gordon Hayward’s return to Utah had he not been injured in the season opener.
Donovan Mitchell scored 22 points for Utah. Ricky Rubio tallied 14 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, and Jae Crowder added 16 points off the bench. The Jazz (42-33) lost for the third time in five games.
Utah seemed in control in the third quarter, forcing 10 turnovers and turning them into 15 points. It helped the Jazz rip off a 15-0 run, also fueled by three 3-pointers from Rubio and Crowder, to take a 69-58 lead.
Boston charged back in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Rozier and Shane Larkin helped trim the deficit to 85-84. Crowder and Mitchell answered with back-to-back layups to keep the Jazz in front.
Boston kept coming and tied it at 94 on Tatum’s dunk with 1:09 left.
Utah had a 13-0 run in the first quarter. Boston missed 14 of 17 shots and scored six total points over the final 8:53 of the quarter.
The teams reversed roles during the second quarter. Boston found its shooting rhythm and shut down Utah on the other end of the court. The Celtics surged in front behind a 16-2 run, taking a 46-34 lead late in the quarter. Brown put Boston in front with back-to-back baskets and capped the spurt with his second 3-pointer of the game. Utah missed six of seven shots during the run.
The Jazz (42-33) are still in a playoff spot, one game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Utah next hosts Memphis Friday night.