BOSTONThe Boston Celtics once again found themselves in a nail-biter that wasn't decided until the final seconds of play.
And once again the C's managed to prevail as they held on for a 98-93 win over the Utah Jazz.
Boston came into Wednesday's game having with a margin of just 4.8 points in games they came away victorious.
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Adding to the degree of difficulty on Wednesday was the fact that the C's played the entire fourth quarter and part of the third without point guard Rajon Rondo, who has a right ankle sprain and is questionable for Thursday night's game in Brooklyn against the Nets.
Boston got a ton of clutch plays most of the night from Rondo's replacement - Leandro Barbosa - as well as key reserves Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox.
But like most games, defensive play usually dictates who leaves with a win and who departs playing the 'what if..." game.
"Defensively, we're coming on," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "You know, we gave up a couple things that they shouldn't have had, but overall I think we're starting to understand that this 'single possession defensive team' mentality. Every single possession. I don't know if our new guys get that yet, but I think they're starting to."
Solid defense and timely shot-making once again proved to be a winning formula down the stretch for Boston. Here's a review of some keys outlined prior to the game, and how they ultimately played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Every team has a flaw that the opponent wants to exploit. For the Celtics, it is rebounding. I know ... shocking! Boston ranks dead last on the glass at 46 rebounds per game. They face a Utah team that once again is among the NBA's best on the boards. Utah hauls in 55 rebounds per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: Not surprisingly, the Celtics were crushed on the boards by the Jazz in decisive fashion, 48-33. It was especially ugly on the offensive glass with the Jazz out-boarding them, 18-4. "When we get out-rebounded by what we did, 18-4 ... it's hard to win a basketball game. And yet we still won it."
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Paul Millsap. Tonight's matchup here offers up a rare treat: two power forwards who are actually ... power forwards. Bass is the better face-up scorer, but you have to give Millsap the edge when it comes to rebounding.
WHAT WE SAW: Bass was no different than most power forwards Millsap faces, with Millsap showcasing an impressive game around the basket before finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds to go with four assists and a couple blocks. Bass wasn't too shabby (eight points on 4-for-8 shooting) scoring the ball, but three rebounds? The C's need him to be better - much better - than that.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Wilcox isn't putting up huge numbers for the Celtics, but he is contributing in ways that should help ease some of the interior pressure defensively that's squarely on the shoulders of Kevin Garnett now. It's well documented how significant the drop-off is when Garnett leaves the game to take a rest. Wilcox is rounding into shape so that Garnett taking a break may not necessarily be as big an issue in the future. "I'm getting there; I'm getting there," Wilcox told CSNNE.com. "I just have to keep on grinding man, making sure I do my part to help this team win. When I come in for KG, that means defense and rebounding."
WHAT WE SAW: Wilcox was among the reasons Doc Rivers was able to play Kevin Garnett the entire fourth quarter and not be worried about minutes played. Wilcox had seven points and five rebounds while playing just over 18 minutes. "At the end of the day, the biggest thing for me is just bringing the energy," Wilcox said. "Once I just bring the energy, start running the floor things just start falling into place."
STAT TO TRACK: Both teams have had some pretty good halftime spiels from their coaches, evident by the third quarter being so good to them offensively. Boston averages 25.6 points in the third quarter this season which ranks seventh in the NBA. Meanwhile the Jazz aren't too far behind with 25.2 points in the third quarter which ranks ninth in the league.
WHAT WE SAW: The third quarter was once again the Celtics best scoring quarter of the game. In the third, Boston had 29 points compared to 24 by the Jazz. "We're getting better," said C's forward Paul Pierce. "Like I said, it's a process."