The Celtics were trying to sweep a three-game road trip and re-establish themselves as a championship contender. The Utah Jazz were trying to avenge an ugly loss last November in Boston, one that showed them the things they lacked as a team and motivated them the rest of the season.
Revenge won out.
In an arena as hostile as any in the league, Utah sealed a 110-97 win behind 22 points and 11 assists from Deron Williams, 23-points from CJ Miles and a 14-point night from Mehmet Okur.
CJ Miles broke out the dagger when he splashed a long 3-poitner that made it 101-89 with 3:58 left, Williams shoved it in with a layup that made it 103-91 at the 2:50 mark, but it was Okur who almost single handedly deconstructed the Celtics in the third quarter.
Okur, returning after sitting out Sunday’s game in New Orleans with a stomach ailment, went on a third-quarter scoring spree that had the Celtics dizzy for the rest of the quarter.
His first 3-pointer of the night gave the Jazz a 56-54 lead, stunning to the point that they never regained the lead. After Deron Williams scored, Okur knocked tipped in CJ Miles’ miss, then drilled another three from 25 feet out that put the Jazz up 63-58. Rajon Rondo seemed to kill some of the momentum, setting up Ray Allen for a three then getting to the free throw line and knocking down a pair of shots that made it 65-63.
But on the Celtics’ next possession, when Rondo tried to hit Okur with a “Dream Shake” in the paint, Okur didn’t buy it, getting his arms up to swat Rondo’s lay-up attempt back at him.
By the end of the third quarter, the Celtics were down 82-73 and the lead would only get bigger.
The Jazz shot 17 second half free throws, outscoring the Celtics 61-43 in the second half, and Rivers was so fed up that in the final minute he decided to excuse himself, drawing two techs, and clapping at the officials as he was given the heave-ho.
The Celtics blew a lead that was as wide as 12-points and spoiled a 13-point first half from Glen Davis. Davis grabbed four rebounds and knocked down all seven of his free throw attempts. But in the third quarter, he took a forearm from CJ Miles that bloodied his nose. The Celtics had to call a 20-second timeout while he lay on the court before going to the locker room. He returned, however, early in the fourth, playing with tissue in his nose.
After stringing together three straight 20-plus point games, Paul Pierce has held to 11 points on 3 of 12 shooting. Ray Allen missed seven of his 11 and five of his seven threes shots
The tale of the first half was free throw shooting (Boston 13 4 of 18, Utah 13 of 14), rebounds (Boston 21, Utah 13) and second chances (Boston 11 points, Utah 4). But in second half, Utah dominated every category, finishing with 39 boards, seven 3 pointers, and 16 second chance points.
On a trip that Rivers said the Celtics could have easily won or lost all three games, they downed Houston and Dallas, gaining momentum and confidence. But the schedule doesn’t get any easier in the coming days with Denver, Sacramento, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston and Cleveland all due at the Garden in the next homestand.