Celtics-Jazz takeaways: Tatum getting hot at the perfect time


The Boston Celtics overcame tired legs and took care of business against the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

About 24 hours after their demolition of the Bucks, the C's returned to TD Garden for their fifth game in seven nights. They didn't land in Boston until roughly 1:30 p.m. ET due to flight issues in Milwaukee.

Despite the short rest on the second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics prevailed with a 122-114 victory. 

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Jayson Tatum picked up where he left off with a game-high 39 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 19 off the bench. Six Celtics players scored in double figures.

Talen Horton-Tucker led the Jazz with 28 points. Walker Kessler chipped in 20 points with 10 rebounds.

The Celtics will enjoy a three-day weekend before returning to action Tuesday night vs. the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Four games remain on the regular-season schedule.

Here are three quick takeaways from Friday's win over Utah.

Blake Griffin adds a spark

With the C's down both of their starting bigs (Robert Williams and Al Horford), Blake Griffin was called upon to start. The veteran has been a spark plug for Boston all season and that continued Friday night.

Griffin's hustle was on display for all 24 minutes that he was on the court. He took charges -- some that were called and some that weren't -- and brought down 12 boards (five offensive). He added six points, five assists, and a steal for good measure.

The six-time All-Star also managed to get under his opponent's skin for the second straight night. After taking a headbutt from the Bucks' Thanasis Antetokounmpo, he got into a scuffle with Jazz guard Kris Dunn during the fourth quarter.

Dunn received two technical fouls and was ejected from the game.

"We needed something to enhance our focus and our energy for the last five minutes and I thought Blake provided that," head coach Joe Mazzulla said after the win. "Blake's in that category where any time we call his name, he brings the physicality and a joy and an energy that our team feeds off of."

Griffin has proven to be a valuable addition to the C's both on and off the court. Boston will hope it won't have to rely on him too much during the postseason, but it's reassuring to see he can still make an impact when necessary.

Malcolm Brogdon proves worthy of Tommy Award

NBC Sports Boston and the Celtics celebrated Tommy Heinsohn Night on Friday. In honor of the late C's legend, the third annual "Tommy Award" was handed out to the player who best embodies attributes of hustle, effort, and pride throughout the season.

Brogdon was the proud recipient of the 2023 Tommy Award and he backed it up with his performance vs. Utah. The veteran guard was Boston's second-highest scorer with 19 points (7-14 FG) in 31 minutes off the bench. He added seven assists, three rebounds, a steal and a block to his stat line.

His "Tommy Award" sequence of the night came late in the third quarter. With the C's up only four points, Brogdon drilled back-to-back 3-pointers before assisting on a Grant Williams triple and hitting another 3 on four consecutive possessions.

With Jaylen Brown (12 points) having an off night, the Celtics needed a secondary scorer to step up. Brogdon did just that and showed why he should be the Sixth Man of the Year.

Tommy would be proud.

Jayson Tatum getting hot at the right time

With only four games left until the playoffs, Tatum picked the perfect time to get hot.

He has shaken off his shooting slump and caught fire over the last two nights. Fresh off a 40-point outburst vs. the Bucks, Tatum treated the TD Garden crowd to a dominant 39-point performance.

The 25-year-old star shot 12-for-17 from the floor, including 5-for-8 from beyond the arc. That makes him 25-for-35 on field goals and 13-of-18 from 3 over the last two games. That's exactly what C's fans want to see with the playoffs looming.

Tatum also continued making a conscious effort to attack the basket. That resulted in him getting to the free-throw line consistently, where he hit 10 of his 11 shots. He added 11 boards, three assists, and three steals to his all-around spectacular showing.

If this is the Tatum the Celtics are getting for the playoff run, good luck to the rest of the Eastern Conference.

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