If someone were to list the 10 best games in the NBA this season going into Wednesday night, about 14 of them would have to involve the Boston Celtics. Then Jaylen Brown tossed in a dagger 3 — leaving 0.1 seconds on the clock — and the list grew.
After a playful round of chest punches from Jayson Tatum, and a perfunctory inbound, the Celtics (those who were physically able to attend) walked off the court in Utah with another improbable win, 97-94.
Jaylen Brown hits the game winning three at the buzzer!!🔥👌 pic.twitter.com/q67MgJnmbg
— NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) March 29, 2018
Boston trailed for the entire fourth quarter — well, the first 11 minutes and 59.8 seconds or so — and was down 94-92 with about 1:20 to play. Brown stole the ball from Donovan Mitchell, pushed it up the floor, and looped the ball ahead for a Tatum slam that tied the game with 1:09 left.
The teams exchanged misses before a Shane Larkin rebound gave the Celtics the ball with 14.7 seconds to play. After a time-out, Larkin drove into the paint and tossed a no-look over-the-shoulder pass to Semi Ojeleye. Brown, who had pressed inside, popped out to the 3-point line, took a pass from Ojeleye, and knocked down the game-winner.
Having trailed for most of the second half, Boston scored the last 9 points of the game to finish off a 4-0 road trip and push their record against the Western Conference’s current playoff teams to 10-6.
Utah Jazz 94-Boston Celtics 97, full game highlights https://t.co/LhqCjf2wuR
— Igor Mitic , (@IL_NUMERO_UNO) March 29, 2018
(Brown’s killer-3 and the Jaylen-to-Jason defense-to-offense fast break are nearby. Memo to NBA: take a close look at both. You may be seeing stuff like that for, oh, another 15 years or so.)
“Well, look, we were only down three all-stars tonight,” an unidentified voice from the Celtics locker room chirped post-game.
G-leaguers (well, a couple weeks ago) making key plays. Guys getting hot at just the right time. Clutch plays down the stretch. Teammates trusting teammates.
Next man up… and the next… and…
— Terry Rozier, who shot 0-for-7 in the first three quarters, nailed three of five 3-point shots in the fourth to help keep the Celtics close. He also chalked up 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
— Aron Baynes (13 points, 8 rebounds), Greg Monroe (8 points, 8 rebounds), and (at times) Ojeleye kept Rudy Gobert (10 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks) occupied and moving around at the Celtics offensive end. And they cleaned the glass just well enough to keep Boston in the game. Boston was out-rebounded, but narrowly, 45-42.
— Larkin didn’t have his best shooting night, hitting on just 4 of 9 attempts. But he led the Celtics in assists (4, tied with Monroe) and rebounds (9 — not a typo). Good things seemed to happen around Larkin. The Celtics were +25 in his 33 minutes on the floor, -22 in the 15 minutes he wasn’t. And he was the man Stevens trusted to run the final play as Boston took the ball out with less than 15 seconds to play and the game tied.
— Even Abdel Nader (a key second-quarter steal and conversion) and starter Guerschon Yabusele (a 3-pointer that helped keep Gobert honest) chipped in, especially by playing 15 and 14 minutes respectively.
— Brad Stevens, with help from Danny Ainge‘s seemingly endless supply of G-League talent, was in full #StevensEffect mode. He dared Utah to shoot with a 3-2 zone at times; went long and quick with one lineup, then deployed twin towers (Monroe and Baynes) at another.
No word yet on Celtics247’s proposal that the NBA do its bit for the environment by simply calling off 2018 Coach of the Year balloting.
Brown (21 points) led the Celtics in scoring, hitting 6 of 10 shots, including 3 of 3 from distance. He also got to the free throw line — and converted 6 of 8. Mitchell, who reportedly spent some time with Brown at the local Cheesecake Factory, outscored Brown, with 22 points — but hit on just 7 of 20 shots and was victimized by Brown’s late-game takeaway. Brown was also (at +5) the only Celtic starter with a positive plus-minus count, as Boston’s Red-Claw-assisted bench once again keyed the win.
Stevens said the final play was designed for a Larkin layup, but he wasn’t complaining about the result. “That’s teammates trusting teammates.” In a word, Boston Celtics teamness.