Celtics drop to third in East after losing late lead in loss to Jazz originally appeared nbc sports boston
The Boston Celtics should have left Utah with their third straight road trip win, but the Jazz staged a comeback late in the fourth quarter and the Seas lost 118–117.
The Celtics had a 19-point lead in the first half, and led 117–113 with 1:19 remaining in the game. But the Celtics could not hold on, and now they are in third place in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks and the 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 against the Kings in Sacramento resumes on Tuesday night. The Kings are the second-ranked team in the Western Conference and have won eight of their last 10 games.
But before we look at that game, here are three learnings from the Celtics-Jazz.
1) The Celtics fall in the standings
Celtics made the playoffs Saturday night as a result of the Miami Heat’s loss to the Chicago Bulls. However, the Celtics’ loss to the Jazz, combined with a 76ers’ win over the Charlotte Hornets, dropped Boston to third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Milwaukee Bucks: 50-20
Philadelphia 76ers: 48-22, 2 GB
Boston Celtics: 49-23, 2GB
Cleveland Cavaliers: 45-28, 6.5 GB
The Celtics were alone in first place a few weeks ago, but have lost six of their last 11 games. Of those six losses, four were decided by four or fewer points.
Boston is now in a tough fight for the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs. How important is the number 2 seed? Achieving this would guarantee the Celtics homecourt advantage in at least the first two rounds of the post-season. The No. 3 seed only guarantees you homecourt in the first round.
The Celtics are a tough team to beat at TD Garden, where they have the league’s second best home record at 26-9. The Seas finished the 2021–22 regular season strongly and earned the No. 2 seed, giving them homecourt advantage in the first two rounds. They eliminated the Bucks in Round 2 with a Game 7 victory at the Garden. The series could have fallen apart if Game 7 had been in Milwaukee.
Luckily for the Celtics, the Sixers have toughest balance program Based on opponent win percentage. Philly still has games left against quality teams like the Bucks, Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns. But the last 10 games will not be easy for the Celtics. They have the ninth-toughest remaining schedule, consisting of four road games and two back-to-back.
Health should be a top priority for the Celtics for the remainder of the regular season, but they still need to at least try to stay ahead of the 76ers for the No. 2 seed.
2) Jazz dominates aggressive glass
One area where the Jazz really hurt the Celtics was the offensive glass. Utah had a 17–5 lead in offensive rebounds and got 20 seconds as a result. Walker Kessler had eight offensive rebounds.
The Celtics Were Missing Two Of Their Best Rebounders Robert Williams III And Al Horford, but the Celtics should have been prepared for such an effort from the Jazz on the board. Utah entered the game ranked No. 4 in the league in second chance points per game and No. 5 in offensive rebounds per game. A big part of the Jazz’s success this season has been the offensive glass, so the C’s should have been aware of that and boxed better than they did.
The Jazz won the rebounding battle 56–40 overall, and their starters outscored the Celtics’ starters 45–21.
Rebounding is very important to win games, and it is an area the Celtics need to improve before the playoffs.
3) Grant Williams finds his groove
It’s no secret that March has been a tough month for Williams. He came into Saturday averaging just 5.4 points and shooting 35.3 percent from the floor in seven games. In fact, he scored a combined 16 points in his last four games.
Williams returned to form against the Jazz. He scored 23 points in 31 minutes with four rebounds and two assists and shot 7-of-12 from 3-point range.
Williams caught fire in the fourth quarter when he made three 3-pointers in a span of 154 seconds to extend Boston’s lead to 108–101. He filled in at the rim 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 the way to the championship if Williams isn’t a consistent 3-and-D player. His ability to spread the floor and hit 3-pointers at a rate of 37 to 40 percent, in addition to playing quality defense against wing players, makes him a vital part of the Celtics’ rotation.
Saturday night’s performance was a step in the right direction for Williams as she tries to regain her confidence and shooting touch before the first round of the playoffs begins.