Celtics 110, Jazz 107 (OT)
Five games in seven nights. A marathon of basketball and travel that would even leave young players exhausted. The Celtics (30-27) key players, however, are not young, and were certainly not happy when the final game of their west coast road trip went into overtime on Monday night. But these are professionals, and even though he was too exhausted to celebrate with the patented NBA ‘jump and bump,’ Paul Pierce continued to hit big shots for his team down the stretch. The Captain nailed a jumper to put the C’s up 97-95 at at the end of the fourth quarter, and after the Jazz (31-26) took a brief lead to start the overtime, he scored seven unanswered points to put Boston up 106-101.
The signs of fatigue were everywhere in this game. At one point during the extra period Kevin Garnett laid out to knock away an entry pass, and then paused for a good 10 seconds to consider how challenging it was to get back on his feet. Now K.G. and the rest of the Celtics veteran players can ice their knees, visit the chiropractor, and do whatever it is that old people do in order to recharge their batteries. Boston has three days off before they host a terrific Golden State Warriors team this Friday, and they will likely cherish every moment of respite.
Once again, Doc Rivers deserves a ton of credit for this win. He must have made some critical adjustments at halftime, because the C’s came out on fire. They started the third quarter on a 22-7 run and turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point lead by the end of the frame. However this was truly a game of runs, it seemed as though every few minutes one of these teams would go on an 11-2 run, and the fact that there were 17 ties and 13 lead changes throughout the contest attests to the back-and-forth feel of this gritty matchup.
Grinding out wins in this fashion is the calling card of the Celtics during the Garnett era. Some of the younger players and new additions may not be familiar with this formula, but it was a classically tough victory. Boston has been exposed at times during this road trip, yet they have to come out of it feeling stronger and more determined than ever. With their next game on March 1st, the C’s can concentrate on playing one and a half months of solid basketball in order to fine tune team chemistry and advance their playoff positioning. Until then, (as Pierce told Greg Dickerson during a post-game interview) the ’35-and-up group’ will enjoy some well earned time off.