|Kevin Garnett and the Celtics didn’t need much help, but this young fan got an assist.
(Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Doing a number
Celtics hit all the right notes, blow out Jazz
If there were two numbers that the Celtics focused on when they looked at the box score after losing at home to Phoenix last Friday, they were opponents’ field goal percentage and opponents’ scoring.
The Suns shot 50 percent and scored 110 points, and every digit was more annoying to the Celtics than the next.
“It’s noticeable,’’ said Paul Pierce. “You look up and a team scores 100 points or a team shoots over 50 percent on the Boston Celtics. That’s not the type of team we are. We’re a defensive team. We don’t give up a lot of points. We don’t allow a high field goal percentage. You definitely notice it.’’
What they also noticed was that over the previous three games, they were running out of steam. But before they ever scored a bucket in last night’s 105-86 win over Utah, the Celtics went over every defensive detail possible. They had three days to not only rest their vet erans and refine aspects of their game, but to research the Jazz.
“We paid attention to the small things and the details,’’ said Kevin Garnett, “because this is how that team beats you.’’
The way the Jazz sneak by you on back cuts. The way they make you pay for gambling. The way their point guard, Deron Williams, pushes the ball down a defense’s throat. The Celtics prepared for it all.
“Everybody knew exactly what they were going to run,’’ said Ray Allen.
The Celtics lived in Utah’s passing lanes. They refused to let Paul Millsap or Ronnie Brewer make cuts in front of them. They forced 21 turnovers and turned them into 25 points.
They built a 54-44 halftime lead, hitting 21 of 39 shots, while forcing the Jazz to miss 23 of their 42. In the third, the Celtics did their best to rope off the paint, forcing the Jazz to take jumpers on 11 of their 16 shots in the quarter, and causing seven turnovers.
“That’s the process of the progression of the game for us,’’ said Allen, one of seven Celtics in double digits, with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. “Whatever they’re running, kind of push them further away from the basket and make them play on their heels a little bit.’’
The Celtics then used the opportunities created by the defense to move the ball, find open threes, and create easy shots under the basket. As quiet as Pierce’s 13 points seemed, his two 3-pointers at the start of the third quarter began the avalanche that eventually smothered the Jazz.
The Celtics shot 61.1 percent (11 for 18) in the quarter, and certain possessions - particularly one midway through the third when the ball touched four sets of hands (Rajon Rondo, to Allen, to Kendrick Perkins, behind the back to Garnett, back to Rondo) before resulting in a layup - seemed clinical. By the end of the quarter, the Celtics had stretched a 10-point halftime lead to 22 points (the lead would peak at 23).
The offense passed the century mark for the fourth time in nine games, and there was a balance that had been absent over the last three games.
“We want to be one of the best defensive teams in history,’’ said Rondo, who handed out 11 assists to go with 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting for his sixth double-figure assist performance of the young season. “And we know we’ve got to do it consistently.’’
“If you’re going to pride yourself on defense, then [those numbers] shouldn’t happen,’’ Rivers said of a team scoring as many points, and shooting as high a percentage, as the Suns had. “And they did. They saw that. And they thought it happened on both ends. Not only that happened, but then the offense wasn’t good enough, either. And there will be nights where your offense is bad and your defense has to carry you. And on those few nights where your defense is bad then your offense has to carry you. So in our mind, we let both offense, defense, let each other down on a couple nights.’’
The Celtics beat the Jazz the way they had beaten the Hornets and Bulls, leaving Williams to say of his team, “We’re soft.’’
With the box score in front of him showing numbers he was more accustomed to, Garnett (18 points) said, “I thought for 48 minutes we were very well-connected.’’