BOSTON (AP) — The Jazz already have the best record in the NBA. If they execute down the stretch like they did against the Celtics, they might be even better by season’s end.
Donovan Mitchell had eight of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and Utah hit 19 3-pointers to beat Boston 117-109 on Tuesday night.
Jordan Clarkson added 20 points off the bench. Mike Conley scored 17 points and Rudy Gobert finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds to help the Jazz sweep the season series between the teams.
Coming off a mistake-filled loss at Golden State on Sunday to open their five-game road trip, Mitchell liked the focus his teammates responded with.
“I think the biggest thing is how we executed,” he said. “Tonight I think we did a good job of it. … getting the plays we wanted.”
Boston led by as many as 11 in the first half before fading late.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 29 points and Jaylen Brown added 28. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a hot-shooting night by Utah, which also got 45 points from its bench.
At times this season Utah has had trouble both closing out games. Coach Quin Snyder said how they finished Tuesday is a positive step forward.
“It’s important. I think our guys, in the second half we started defensive rebounding and got some things in transition and built a little bit of the lead,” he said.
Trailing 104-101, the Celtics had two chances to tie the game. The first was thwarted by an offensive foul on Robert Williams. Following a Utah foul on its next possession, Marcus Smart came up short on a 3-point attempt that was corralled by the Jazz.
Mitchell then hit a 3 on Utah’s next trip to make it 107-101.
Utah’s lead was 109-101 when Tatum was fouled by Gobert on a layup. But he failed to complete the three-point play and Boston was forced to foul.
The Celtics played without big man Tristan Thompson after he was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols hours before the game.
Semi Ojeleye made his seventh start of the season in his place but was quiet offensively. He failed to attempt field goal and finished with two rebounds and one assist.
Boston was mostly able to neutralize Gobert in the first half, holding him to four points. But he found some openings in the final 24 minutes, including cutting to take a bounce pass from Clarkson and dunking over Daniel Theis as part of Utah’s initial fourth-quarter surge.
Boston fell to 0-8 this season against the teams with the best five records in the NBA (Jazz 0-2; Suns 0-1; 76ers 0-2; Nets 0-2 and Lakers 0-1).
“There’s a reason why the rest of us don’t have their record,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We don’t make people pay as much as they make everyone else pay.”
Jazz: Hit 10 3-pointers in the first half. … Had eight turnovers in the first quarter, a season high for the opening period. … Udoka Azubuike was out for the 14th consecutive game with a right ankle sprain.
Celtics: Tatum had a four-point play late in the third quarter to put the Celtics in front 76-75. Boston closed the period on an 11-2 run and took a 79-77 lead into the fourth. … Shot 60% (25 of 42) in the first half. … Romeo Langford remained in the health and safety protocols for the third consecutive game.
Stevens acknowledged before the game that he’s heard about the groundswell of support he’s getting in his home state to be Indiana University’s next coach following Archie Miller’s firing.
“That does mean a lot, I won’t act like that doesn’t,” Stevens said. “It’s flattering. But I also realize that I’m the coach of the Celtics. It’s been an amazing opportunity, an amazing challenge every day for the last eight years and I’m extremely grateful.”
Jazz: Visit Washington on Thursday.
Celtics: At Cleveland on Wednesday.