HomeSportsC's lose late lead, fall to third in 118-117 loss

C’s lose late lead, fall to third in 118-117 loss

Celtics drop to third in East after losing late lead in loss to Jazz, originally appearing on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics should have left Utah with their third consecutive win of the road trip, but the Jazz staged a comeback late in the fourth quarter to give the C’s a 118–117 loss.

The Celtics had a 19-point lead in the first half, and they also led 117–113 with 1:19 left in the game. But the Celtics couldn’t keep it up and now they rank third in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 25 points, while Lauri Markkanen led the Jazz with 28 points.

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The Celtics’ road trip resumes Tuesday night against the Kings in Sacramento. The Kings are the second team in the Western Conference and have won eight of their last ten games.

But before we look ahead to that game, here are three takeaways from Celtics-Jazz.

1) Celtics drop in standings

The Celtics clinched a playoff spot on Saturday night following the Miami Heat’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. However, the Celtics’ loss to the Jazz, combined with the 76ers’ victory over the Charlotte Hornets earlier in the day, dropped Boston to third in the Eastern Conference standings.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks: 50-20

  2. Philadelphia 76ers: 48-22, 2GB

  3. Boston Celtics: 49-23, 2GB

  4. Cleveland Cavaliers: 45-28, 6.5GB

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The Celtics were all alone in first place a few weeks ago, but they have lost six of their last eleven games. Four of those six losses were decided by four or fewer points.

Boston is now in a tough battle for the top two spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs. How important is Seed No. 2? Getting it would guarantee the Celtics home field advantage in at least the first two rounds of the postseason. The number 3 seed guarantees your home field in the first round only.

The Celtics are a tough team to beat in TD Garden, where they have the league’s second-best home record at 26-9. The C’s finished the 2021–22 regular season strong, earning the No. 2 seed, giving them home field advantage in the first two rounds. They eliminated the Bucks in Round 2 with a Game 7 win at the Garden. The series could have turned out differently if that Game 7 had been in Milwaukee.

Fortunately for the Celtics, the Sixers have the hardest remaining schedule based on opponent winning percentage. Philly still has games to play against quality teams like the Bucks, Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns. But the last 10 games won’t be easy for the Celtics. They have the ninth hardest schedule remaining, including four road games and two back-to-backs.

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Health should be the top priority for the Celtics for the remainder of the regular season, but they should still try to finish at least ahead of the 76ers for the No. 2 seed.

2) Jazz dominates offensive glass

One area where the Jazz really hurt the Celtics was offensive glass. Utah had a 17-5 lead in offensive rebounds, scoring 20 rebound points as a result. Walker Kessler single-handedly had eight offensive rebounds.

The Celtics missed two of their best rebounders in Robert Williams III and Al Horford, but the Celtics should have been prepared for this kind of effort from the Jazz on the boards. Utah entered this game ranked No. 4 in the league in rebound points per game and No. 5 in offensive rebounds per game. The offensive glass has been a big part of the Jazz’s success this season, so the C’s should have been aware of that and ruled out better than they did.

The Jazz won the rebounding battle 56-40 overall, and their starters outpaced the Celtics starters 45-21.

Rebounding is so important to winning games, and this is one area the Celtics need to improve for the playoffs.

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3) Grant Williams finds his groove

It’s no secret that March was a tough month for Williams. He came in on Saturday averaging just 5.4 points and shooting 35.3 percent from the floor in seven games. In fact, he scored 16 points in his previous four games combined.

Williams got back into the rhythm against the Jazz. He scored 23 points and shot 7-of-12 from 3-point range, along with four rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes.

Williams caught fire in the fourth quarter when he made three three-pointers in a span of 154 seconds to extend Boston’s lead to 108–101. He did hit the rim full on the final play of the game, but overall it was a positive performance for him.

The Celtics will need Williams to be an effective player in the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine Boston winning four rounds on their way to a championship if Williams isn’t a consistent 3-and-D player. His ability to stretch the floor and hit three-pointers at a rate of 37 to 40 percent, in addition to playing quality defense against wingers, makes him a valuable part of the Celtics’ rotation.

Saturday night’s performance was a step in the right direction for Williams as he tries to regain his confidence and shooting skills ahead of the first round of the playoffs.

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