Rivers, Celtics tossed
Jazz do a number in convincing fashion
SALT LAKE CITY — At the very least, he was polite.
His team was getting blown out of EnergySolutions Arena. There was no doubt. Everything the Celtics had done well in the first half of their 110-97 loss — rebounding, free throw shooting, second chances, 3-point shooting — the Jazz matched and raised in the second. The Celtics had blown a lead that was 12 points, letting the Jazz outscore them, 61-43, their four-game winning streak 1:11 from being over.
Coach Doc Rivers just wanted to remind referee Ed Malloy there was time left.
“I just told Ed, ‘Please keep officiating the game,’ ’’ Rivers claimed.
There was a traveling call, Rivers said. It happened in front of the visitors’ bench, he said. He saw it with his own eyes.
“I said, ‘Hey, Ed, it would be nice if you kept officiating the game throughout,’ ’’ Rivers said.
Malloy hit him with a technical.
“I said, ‘That’s the best call you’ve made all night.’ ’’
Rivers wasn’t thinking he’d get thrown out.
“Usually, it’d be nice to earn them,’’ he said.
Then, the next tech came.
Rivers started clapping. The back half of the night a frustrating implosion as it was, his ejection was a nightcap that went down smooth and easy. The ejection was his second of the season. The first was Jan. 11 against Atlanta.
“It wasn’t a big deal,’’ Rivers said. “Let me be clear, the refs didn’t lose the game for us. I thought the Jazz just did more things in the second half. I thought they played terrific.’’
The tale of the first half was free throw shooting (Boston 13 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 40 boards, 7 of 21 3-pointers, and 16 second-chance points.
The Celtics took their feet off the pedal after Ray Allen drilled a three from the corner with 2:01 left in the first half, turning the ball over, missing layups, and allowing the Jazz to go into the break down just 54-49.
“I thought the second quarter we closed out terribly,’’ Rivers said. “I thought what we did was give them hope.’’
CJ Miles (game-high 23 points) splashed a long 3-pointer that made it 101-89 with 3:58 left in the fourth, Deron Williams (22 points, 11 assists) shoved in a layup that made it 103-91 at the 2:50 mark, but Mehmet Okur 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.
His first 3-pointer gave the Jazz a 56-54 lead, stunning to the point the Celtics never regained the lead. After Williams scored, Okur knocked in Miles’s miss, then drilled another three from 25 feet that put the Jazz ahead, 63-58. Rajon Rondo seemed to kill some of the momentum, setting up Allen for a three, then knocking down a pair from the free throw line 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 layup attempt back at him.
By the end of the quarter, the Celtics were trailing, 82-73, and the deficit only got bigger.
“They came out and were more aggressive than we were,’’ said Paul Pierce, whose three-game string of scoring 20 points was snapped with an 11-point, 3-of-13-shooting night. “I thought we kind of settled for jump shots instead of being aggressive like we were in the first half, getting to the free throw line, pushing the break, and then we let them get out on the break. When you play against a team like the Utah Jazz, who is precise in what they do offensively, you can’t have those lapses.’’
The Celtics went 2-1 on their trip, but with a nightmarish homestretch approaching, there’s no room to breathe.
Unless, of course you’re Rivers, who spent the last minute by himself taking in the loss.
“If he wants to throw you out for that, that’s fine,’’ Rivers said. “He has the right to do that. As a coach, if they say you’re out, you’ve got to go.’’
But he made one thing clear.
“I didn’t curse,’’ Rivers said. “It’s Utah. I respect that.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.