|Fast Break: Celtics’ third straight win earns first-place tie||03.28.12 at 9:54 pm ET|
Rajon Rondo became the first player since 2009 to register double-digit assists in 11 straight games (obviously, Steve Nash was the last to accomplish that feat), as his 14 dimes on Wednesday night helped the Celtics (28-22) defeat the Jazz 94-82 and move into another tie with the idle 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Kevin Garnett submitted his 16th double-double of the season, amassing 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Paul Pierce (20 points, 6 rebounds) and Brandon Bass (19 points, 4 rebounds) also turned in big nights.
Meanwhile, despite 18 points, 12 rebounds and three assists from old friend Al Jefferson, the Jazz (27-24) dropped into a tie with the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
High-flying Hollins: He may not be much of a rebounder for a 7-footer, but the 27-year-old Ryan Hollins can run the floor with Rondo, and anyone who can do that will be rewarded. On consecutive plays 30 seconds apart in the waning minutes of the first half, Hollins threw down two alley-oop dunks sandwiched around a Jazz timeout.
Seconds, please: The second quarter was vintage Celtics, who outscored the Jazz 28-14 going into the break. As a team, they shot 11-for-20 (55%) from the field. Pierce scored six points in the frame while Garnett and Bradley each netted five apiece. As good as they were on offense, they might have been better on the defensive end.
Rondo tornado: Where there is vintage Celtics, there is vintage Rondo. His four points, three assists and two rebounds in the first in the first eight minutes cued the triple-double watch early. While he didn’t shoot as much as the Celtics might have liked, he kept the engine running smoothly for most of the night.
Dooling bravos: It’s been a rough season for Keyon Dooling, battling injuries and losing his role to Avery Bradley, but the veteran guard submitted his best performance of the season. He scored seven points, including a huge fourth-quarter trey that gave the Celtics the lead back after the Jazz tied it, 66-66.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Ugly first impression: The Celtics shot just 8-for-22 (36.4%) in the first quarter. Only Rondo eclipsed 50 percent shooting over the opening 12 minutes. These are the periods the Celtics most miss Ray Allen, who missed his third consecutive game with an ankle sprain. It’s a good thing the Jazz also couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting an even worse 7-for-21 (33.3%) in the first quarter, but grabbing 18 rebounds to take a 21-18 lead after one.
Board to death: The Jazz entered the game as the NBA’s third-best offensive rebounding team, and by game’s end they accumulated 49 to the C’s 38, including a 16-4 advantage on the offensive glass. Since the C’s held them to 39.0 percent shooting, even that discrepancy didn’t make much of a difference.
Party Favors: For 15 minutes in the first half, a young, athletic Derrick Favors put in work against the Celtics, totaling six points and six rebounds. However, after picking up his third personal foul with five minutes remaining in the second quarter, he didn’t see the light of day off Utah’s bench until the fourth quarter, and the Celtics built a lead as large as 18.
Big Al: Of course, Favors plays behind both Jefferson and Paul Millsap (16 points, 7 rebounds), who weren’t so bad themselves. Jefferson dominated the third quarter, totaling 14 points and four rebounds in the frame to cut the Celtics lead to 66-61 after three.