BOSTON (AP) -- At age 36, Gary Payton no longer puts together
long stretches of outstanding games. On Friday night, though, he
played as if he were in his prime.
"He was awesome," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Tonight was
After a disappointing season with the Los Angeles Lakers in
which he took a backseat to superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille
O'Neal, Payton was acquired by the Celtics and is thriving as the
leader of their improved uptempo attack.
"I was pushing the ball and everybody was getting out" on the
fastbreak, Payton said. "We distributed the ball very well and I
think we kept everybody in the flow. So when everybody touches the
ball then we're a good basketball team."
Utah's only lead was 2-0 and Boston led by at least eight points
for the final 40 minutes.
The Celtics hit 56 percent of their shots to take a 58-40 lead
at halftime and stretched that to as much as 21, leading 84-63 on
two free throws by Marcus Banks with 1:36 left in the third
quarter. The closest Utah came after that was eight points, the
first time on Carlos Boozer's layup with 3:56 to play that made it
"The Celtics were just much more interested in doing the right
things," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We had moments tonight
where we looked so disinterested. Guys were driving to the basket
and we would just let them go."
Boston outscored Utah 56-38 in the paint and won for the third
time in four games with the only loss coming by one point, 100-99,
to Denver on Wednesday night when Paul Pierce missed a shot at the
buzzer. Utah played its third game in four nights and is 2-9 in its
"Offensively, we were as good as you can get," Rivers said.
"That's the type of ball movement and basketball we've got to play
Utah was led by Boozer with 25 points and 12 rebounds, Mehmet
Okur with 21 points and Carlos Arroyo with 20.
"It's hard to come back when you're down 20 points, especially
in their home," Arroyo said.
Okur's 23-foot jumper opened the scoring and gave the Jazz their
only lead. Blount tied the game with a hook shot and Jiri Welsch's
3-pointer put Boston ahead to stay.
"We couldn't guard anyone," Okur said.
The Celtics led 19-10 before going on an 8-2 run that built its
biggest lead of the first quarter, 29-12. Utah scored the last five
points of the period, but Boston started the second with a 9-2
surge and took its biggest lead of the half, 38-19 on two free
throws by Tony Allen.
"Everybody runs against us," Sloan said. "We have been
inefficient after made baskets and our free throws."
Boston was coasting along before Utah started chipping away at a
Baskets by Raja Bell and Arroyo began a mild spurt in which Utah
outscored Boston 26-13. Arroyo had nine points in the comeback that
cut the margin to 97-89. It was 104-96 with 1:49 remaining before
the Celtics began to close out Utah.
Payton hit a three-point play and Ricky Davis added two free
throws for a 109-96 lead. The Jazz outscored the Celtics 8-3 the
rest of the way with Boozer scoring four of their points, but never
threatened the lead in the final minutes.<
^Notes:@Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar sat courtside. ... Howard
Eisley's 10 assists for Utah were his most of the year. ... Utah
had 17 offensive rebounds to eight for Boston, but the Celtics led
12-11 in second-chance points.