Tatum, Brown sizzles, Celtics win 125-97 over Jazz | Basketball

By KYLE HIGHTOWER – AP Sportswriter

BOSTON (AP) — It seemed unlikely the Celtics could play any better than they did on a 4-0 West Coast road trip that included three wins by more than 20 points.

They found a way to do it.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 of 26 points in Boston’s near-perfect first quarter to help the Celtics to a 125-97 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.

Jaylen Brown also added 26 points and Marcus Smart finished with a career-high 13 assists as Boston (46-28) recorded its fifth straight victory to improve its chances for one of the four seeds in the league. Eastern Conference.

It gives a team that was in ninth place and just two games above .500 on Jan. 31 a completely different perspective heading into the regular season home stretch.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it? said Brown. “I feel like it was very important to us, we just had to put together full stretches. I knew the energy was about to change, so I’m glad we’re here now.”

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That relieved some early season losses, he said.

“As many games we missed in the first half of the season – it would have been nice to have won some of those games because we would be number one right now,” Brown said. “But everything happens for a reason. We’re taking it one game at a time and we’ll see where we are when it comes to the playoffs.”

Donovan Mitchell scored 37 points but Utah (45-28) lost consecutive games for the first time since late January in a 21-game span. Rudy Gobert added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Jazz did their best to keep up the pace all night, but just couldn’t get enough shots to go down. They entered the night as the sixth-best offense in the NBA (113.7 points per game), but were held below 100 points for the first time in 12 games.

Utah never got closer to 18 in the second half.

The Jazz especially struggled from the outside, going 8 of 36 from the 3-point line. Utah also had just 13 assists out of 35 field goals made.

Gobert said the Jazz’s problems over the last two losses were getting repetitive.

“These are the same things that happen when we stop playing the way we’re supposed to play and want to play, and we want to be a champion team,” Gobert said. “It’s defense and offensively it’s sharing the ball.”

Boston made its first 10 shots of the game, including six 3-pointers, poised to take a 28-12 lead. His first miss didn’t come until 4:05 into the first quarter when a Brown layup came off the edge.

It was one of the few errors for the Celtics, who finished the period with a 39-24 lead. They went 15 of 19 from the field, 7 of 9 from beyond the arc and held a 12-2 rebounding advantage.

The lead grew to 30 points in the second quarter and Boston took a 68-45 halftime advantage. Smart finished the half with 10 assists in just 15 minutes of action.

Boston collectively had a season-high 37 assists while shooting a season-high 59% from the floor.

Celtics coach Ime Udoka said the disinterestedness was contagious. He hopes this is just the beginning.

“The guys are confident, play freely and play together,” Udoka said. “I think we all think there’s another level we can go to.”

Jazz: Had just seven assists out of 17 field goals in the first half. … Udoka Azubuike (sprained right ankle), Bojan Bogdanovic (sprained left calf), Danuel House (bruised left knee) all missed out.

Celtics: This was the 18th straight game that Tatum had scored at least 20 points. … Had 13 assists in the first quarter.

Jazz: Continue the six-game road trip to Charlotte on Friday.

Celtics: Host Minnesota on Sunday.

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