BOSTON — With 3:06 left in the first quarter, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic and Rudy Gobert — Utah’s clear top three players this season — went to the bench with the Jazz trailing by 11 points.
This was the time that things could have gone from bad to worse. It ended up being the time the Jazz turned around the game in their 99-94 win over the Celtics.
The lineup of Georges Niang, Tony Bradley, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson immediately went on a 14-2 run and by the time that lineup exited the contest at the 6:00 mark of the second quarter, they had turned an 11-point deficit into a 10-point advantage.
The Jazz never trailed again.
“I just think we did a great job of locking in defensively and really getting stops and then pushing the pace and getting out and running,” said Niang, who scored all 7 of his points during the stretch. “When we do that, it’s tough to stop us.”
It made it even more special for Niang too because of where it happened. Niang is from Lawrence, Massachusetts, just 30 miles north of Boston. Each time he made a shot, got a rebound — or did anything really — a suite full of family and friends cheered loudly. They cheered a lot during those nine minutes where the Jazz flipped the game on its head.
“Those guys came in, and they took it to another level,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “You know I thought they shared the ball. There were a few possessions where there were some switching situations. One time Jordan hit Georges in the corner and cut through and Georges drove it. Another time Joe passed the ball and swung it to the top and came and played pick and roll.
“So it was a collective effort; they were really playing for each other offensively and getting one another shots. And when you trust each other like that — that’s a group, between Mike and Joe and Jordan and Georges, those guys, they can play. They know how to play and I thought Tony as well did a terrific job.”
Conley may have had his best game in a Jazz uniform, scoring 25 points and handing out five assists, and he is growing more and more comfortable leading the second unit. Clarkson was his normal high-scoring self, finishing with 17 points. Ingles hit three triples, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out six assists. And Bradley had one of the best defensive games of his career. The young center had three blocks in 15 minutes — and, maybe more importantly, only committed one foul.
As Bradley talked to the media, Emmanuel Mudiay stood up next to him and encouraged him to “tell them what you told me!”
Bradley sheepishly smiled.
“I’m a monster!” Mudiay said, repeating Bradley’s words.
On this night, he wasn’t wrong.
“He executed,” Snyder said. “He was where he needed to be in pick and roll. He moved his feet. He challenged shots. Even if you don’t block it at times, you can impact it. Tony’s working at that.”
Clarkson, Ingles, Bradley and NIang all had a plus/minus of at least plus-22.
“They came out and did what they were supposed to do,” said Donovan Mitchell, who scored just 11 points on Friday. “Guys competed, running the floor, defending. I think we gave up four points from the (three)-minute mark (of the first quarter).”
And that’s why the Jazz left Boston with a win.