The Boston Celtics, one night after one of their best wins of the season, will look to maintain the momentum when they play host to the banged-up Utah Jazz on Friday.
In a battle of the Eastern Conference’s top two teams on Thursday, Boston dominated the host Milwaukee Bucks 140-99. The Celtics made 22 of their 43 3-point attempts (51.2 percent) while matching their second-highest point total of the season.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 40 points and eight rebounds, and Jaylen Brown added 30 points.
Boston (53-24) is in second place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind Milwaukee (55-22). Both teams have five regular-season games remaining, and the Celtics claimed the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage thanks to the Thursday blowout.
“Just wanted to come out and play good basketball, and that’s what we did,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown said. “It’s that time of the year. We’re all getting ready for the playoffs. Back against the wall, survival of the fittest. We want to be the last team on top and we know (Milwaukee) is one of the teams we have to go through.
“I think we’ve been playing good basketball for the last couple weeks. We have to keep it up. Have fun. Keep playing the right way and see where that takes us.”
The Celtics hope the fun continues at the expense of the Jazz, who will be missing at least four regular contributors on Friday.
Utah, despite being without Lauri Markkanen (hand), Collin Sexton (hamstring), Jordan Clarkson (finger), Rudy Gay (back) and Kelly Olynyk (illness), kept its playoff hopes alive by beating the host San Antonio Spurs 128-117 on Wednesday.
Olynyk is listed as questionable to oppose Boston, while Markkanen, Sexton, Clarkson and Gay will all miss the contest.
Utah (36-40) sits in 12th place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind the Dallas Mavericks (37-40) for the 11th spot and 1 1/2 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder (38-39) for the final berth for the four-team play-in tournament. Barring a strong finish, Utah will be one of 14 teams in the NBA‘s draft lottery.
Including the matchup with Boston, Utah has six regular-season games remaining — three at home and three on the road.
Markkanen (25.7 points per game), Clarkson (20.8), Sexton (14.3) and Olynyk (12.2) are the top four scorers on Utah’s current roster.
Talen Horton-Tucker filled the offensive void against the Spurs, scoring a career-high 41 points. Horton-Tucker shot 15 of 25 from the field, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range. He is averaging 9.9 points per game this season.
“Just trying to get out in transition and get easy buckets,” Horton-Tucker said. “Usually when we have Lauri or JC (Clarkson) playing, (I’m) hitting them early in transition, getting them baskets. But, also for me, getting downhill early in the clock is something I feel is hard to guard for certain teams.”
Thanks largely to Horton-Tucker, Utah ended a four-game losing streak.
“It was a good bounce-back win for us,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “I think our guys have been playing really hard lately and they’ve stayed committed to what we’re doing.”
The Friday game will be the second of two meetings between the Jazz and Celtics this season. Utah overcame a 19-point deficit to defeat Boston 118-117 on March 18 in Salt Lake City.
Markkanen scored 28 points to lead the Jazz in that contest. Grant Williams had 23 points for the Celtics, sinking a career-best seven 3-pointers, but his shot for the win was blocked by Walker Kessler in the final second.
–Field Level Media
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