The Celtics lost Kevin Garnett to a right knee strain late in the first half and faded in the stretch in falling, 90-85, to the Utah Jazz Thursday night.
Garnett’s condition will be evaluated today and his status is undetermined for Sunday’s visit to Phoenix.
The Celtics (44-12) took the lead in the opening minutes and held off a late first-half rally, the Jazz squandering a chance to tie as Andrei Kirilenko missed a foul shot with 0.8 seconds to play. The Celtics protected the lead, despite a 4:21 field goal drought in the third quarter.
But the Celtics hit another field goal drought in the final quarter, converting only once in a 6:44 span.
This time, Utah capitalized, taking the lead as Paul Millsap finishing a three-point play off a bank shot. That gave Utah a 77-76 edge with 5:44 to play — the first Jazz lead since the score was 7-6. A Rajon Rondo free provided the Celtics with a 76-70 lead 4:29 into the quarter. But Matt Harpring hit a jump hook and drew an offensive foul on Paul Pierce. Mehmet Okur cut the Jazz deficit to two points, Pierce missed in a mismatch against Deron Williams, and Millsap scored on an off-balance launch against Kendrick Perkins. That provided the Jazz with their first advantage since Williams’ free throw 3:11 into the contest.
Rondo kept the Celtics in contention with four successive foul shots, his drive tying the score, 82-82, with 4:01 remaining, the team’s second field since a Pierce jumper 75 seconds into the quarter.
Brian Scalabrine fouled out with 3:21 remaining, and Perkins and Leon Powe had committed their fifth fouls earlier in the quarter.
Pierce had several chances to keep the Celtics ahead in the late going.
Pierce fired wide against Harpring, then had a mismatch against Deron Williams, but again missed — this time Perkins rebounded and the Celtics called a timeout. But Pierce misfired again and Harpring’s 15-footer gave the Jazz an 85-83 advantage. Ray Allen’s left-hander rolled off the rim and Williams’ 16-footer extended the lead to four points. A Ronnie Brewer foul shot off a Kirilenko missed free throw clinched the result with six seconds left.