SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah coach Jerry Sloan was uncharacteristically complimentary of his team after the Jazz beat the Celtics 90-85.
Utah did it with the kind of style the coach just loves -- nasty.
"They put a body on you. They knock you around," Sloan said of the defending NBA champion. "Our guys, sometimes we want to play in a tuxedo. And when you're playing against those guys, you better get it off and get ready to get nasty."
The Jazz did just that.
Utah outscored Boston 30-19 in the fourth quarter, going 12-for-17 from the floor as the Celtics played without All-Star forward Kevin Garnett, who strained his right knee late in the second quarter and did not return. Garnett warmed up before the second half, but the Celtics kept him out as a precaution.
Garnett released a statement after the game, saying he would have the knee re-examined on Friday.
"We should have more information at that time. Obviously, I would much rather be playing instead of giving this statement," Garnett said.
Boston led by 11 in the third quarter, but couldn't hold off the Jazz at the end. The Celtics hurt themselves with 19 turnovers and were 19-for-29 from the foul line.
"I think our defense was great and gave us a chance to win the game," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "It really came down to free throws by us and turnovers. We make our free throws, we win the game. And we if we don't turn the ball over, we win the game."
Deron Williams had 18 points and 10 assists, Mehmet Okur scored 19 and Matt Harpring added eight points off the bench, including a tie-breaking jumper with 1:01 left to play that put Utah up for good.
"This was a grind-it-out defensive game tonight," Williams said. "We battled with them all night. It's a great win for our team."
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points, but was pestered down the stretch by Harpring's defense. Harpring drew an offensive foul on the Celtics' star and helped hold him to 2-of-9 shooting in the fourth quarter.
"I love doing that. This is why you play the game of basketball -- for times like this," Harpring said.
Rajon Rondo added 15 points and seven assists for Boston, which had a giant scare late in the first half when Garnett hopped to the locker room on one foot after injuring his right knee.
Garnett hurt himself while going up for an alley-oop late in the first half. He landed gingerly and motioned immediately to the bench for a substitute. He warmed up with his teammates before the second half, but the Celtics weren't going to take any chances with the superstar for a regular season game when Boston already had the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Even without Garnett, the Celtics managed to pull ahead early in the third quarter despite getting in early foul trouble.
Brian Scalabrine started for Garnett in the third quarter and got four fouls in the first 3:30 of the period. Williams drew the third when he drove the lane and Scalabrine unsuccessfully tried to get a charge call. Williams made both free throws to get the Jazz within 49-47, but the Celtics responded by scoring the next eight points.
Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 7:27 left that put Boston up 56-47 and Leon Powe added two free throws before the Jazz ended the run with a shot by Brewer.
The Jazz got within three or four points several times, but couldn't catch the Celtics until midway through the fourth quarter. Paul Millsap tied it at 76-76 when he got Kendrick Perkins to bite on a fake and come down on Millsap as he was taking a jumper that banked in off the glass with 5:44 left in the game, then made the free throw to convert the three-point play.
"Millsap's play gave us a one-point lead and I think we just kept at it when we saw we had a chance to win the ballgame," Sloan said.
Neither team led by more than three until the Jazz pulled away at the end. Harpring's 15-foot jumper to put Utah up 85-83 with 1:01 left, then he pulled down the rebound after Ray Allen missed on a layup. Williams added a jumper from the top of the key to put the Jazz up by four and Utah held on the rest of the way.
Boston had 19 turnovers to Utah's 12. ... The Jazz were 4-for-21 from the floor in the first quarter. ... Garnett finished with eight points and two rebounds. ... Scalabrine fouled out with 3:21 left and on his way off had to explain to Pierce what Okur did to draw the foul.
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