At the 4:51 mark of the first quarter Wednesday night in Boston, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown buried a pull-up 3-pointer.
It was Boston’s 10th made shot. In 10 attempts.
They led the Utah Jazz 28-12.
A mere 7 minutes and 9 seconds into the game, the Jazz were dazed, confused, and effectively done.
It’s really bizarre how quickly it spiraled out if control — the Celtics hit some incredibly tough, well-defended shots early, while the Jazz had a few really good looks go in and out, but as Boston simply continued to hit, the focus and fight from Utah’s players visibly waned.
And so, they never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way, and it was only that close for a few, brief moments. The final carnage was 125-97.
The Jazz came in knowing they were facing one of the league’s hottest teams, came in knowing they were facing the NBA’s top defense, one full of long, rangy, intelligent and energetic defenders …
And they pretty much went through the motions.
“Doing something 20% of the time, 50% of the time, whatever it is … we weren’t committed tonight to playing the way we need to play — on both ends of the floor,” Quin Snyder said afterward.
“We played into their hands, and they just kicked our ass. Wish I could give you a bunch of reasons. I don’t got nothing right now,” Donovan Mitchell added.
The All-Star guard, who finished with 37 points and, for much of the game, very nearly had half of his team’s scoring total, went from quiet dejection to seething anger as his postgame media session went on.
He knew that the Jazz didn’t bring it.
“We lost by 30 — in a game where we [now] have nine games left and then the playoffs. Against a team that’s a talented team, a top team. Playing [against] a defense that we played against in the [last] playoffs. And we lost by 30,” Mitchell said. “That’s what pisses me off right now.”
It wasn’t that the Celtics unveiled some new scheme the Jazz had never seen before. It wasn’t that Utah was somehow caught unaware by what was going to happen.
It’s simply that the issues that have been issues all season long became issues once again.
“It’s the same things,” said Rudy Gobert. “… It’s defense, and offensively, it’s sharing the ball.”
Can’t really argue that.
In that decisive first quarter, Boston hit 15 of 19 shots overall (78.9%) and 7 of 9 from 3-point range (77.8%). And while it was pretty much impossible for the Celtics to stay that hot for the duration of the game, it’s not like Utah cooled them down all that much, as Boston finished at 59.5% from the field and 52.8% from deep.
Meanwhile, the Jazz finished with 13 assists on 35 buckets, and only got that many on account of registering an assist on three of their final five baskets, all of which came in garbage time. No Jazz player had more dimes than the three registered by Mike Conley.
The Celtics, by comparison, totaled 37 assists on 50 baskets. They had five players with at least three assists apiece, including a career-high 13 from Marcus Smart.
Snyder, asked to ruminate on some specifics about what went wrong, had an embarrassment of options to choose from.
The effort wasn’t there often enough: “They’re going to make some shots, but we weren’t making it hard on them, you know?”
The extra gear required against a team like Boston was nonexistent: “We’ve found it at various points, and we have to find it more consistently. Tonight, we didn’t find it very often.”
The sagging body language sent a bad message: “To the extent that those things are reflective of frustration or individual disappointment, that’s an impediment to you doing the things I’m talking about.”
Gobert, meanwhile, though disappointed in the result, tried to find some optimism.
When asked if the Jazz were running out of time to get themselves together, he once again replied that the Jazz know what they have to do, it’s just a matter of making it happen: “We’ve done it. We’ve done it. When it gets hard, we need to do it even more, not stop doing it.”
Which didn’t preclude a subsequent question about whether he believes this team has that next level in them.
“Yeah, of course. If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t be here. I believe in this group,” Gobert said. “And if it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun.”