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Barbosa comes to Celtics' rescue in 98-93 win over Jazz

The SportsXchange

BOSTON - The record will show the Celtics held Utah scoreless for the final 1:57 and escaped with a win Wednesday night without scoring a basket for the final 3:40.

But the real key to Boston's third straight win and fifth in the last six games, a 98-93 decision over the Utah Jazz, was veteran guard Leandro Barbosa.

"Barbosa was terrific," said Boston coach Doc Rivers.

Rajon Rondo, who had just assisted on 10 straight baskets bridging the second and third quarters, rolled his right ankle on a drive under the basket and limped off, eventually to the locker room. Enter Barbosa, who had already supplied a spark off the bench in the first half.

Barbosa, who signed as a free agent during training camp, came on and scored six points, assisted on the other basket and grabbed a rebound in an 8-0 run that gave the Celtics an eight-point lead.

Rondo returned to the bench in the fourth quarter and word came up he would try to play. He didn't. But Barbosa was in control, finishing with 16 points, three assists, two rebounds and no turnovers in 22:42.

"I mean, he bailed us out," said Rivers. "Not just replacing Rondo. I thought in the first half, I thought our starters started the game out pretty flat and I thought our second unit with Courtney Lee, and Barbosa, Jared (Sullinger), that group gave us a spurt."

Asked if Rondo could have returned, the coach said, "Iffy. And I felt like too early (in the season) to take that chance."

The last Boston basket was actually a goaltending call against Utah, which lost its fifth straight game at TD Garden and fell to 4-5 on the season. The last actual basket for the home team came with 5:44 left.

But with the score tied 93-93, Kevin Garnett hit 1-of-2 at the line with 1:08 remaining. Paul Pierce then hit two free throws with 19.5 seconds on the clock and Garnett added two free throws for the final margin.

All the free throws coming off nifty late defense.

Rivers didn't know how available Rondo will be for Thursday night's game in Brooklyn. "I have no idea," he said. "With a sprained ankle, tomorrow you'll know more."

Pierce scored 23 points, including three 3-pointers in the third quarter, an assertive Jeff Green had 16 points (including a vicious flying slam) off the bench; and Rondo finished with six points and the 10 assists, his 32nd straight double-digit assist game. It was, however, his first non-double double of the young season.

"Our whole bench gave us a big lift tonight," said Pierce. "It was a big win, they really helped carry us through this game."

Paul Millsap led the Jazz with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while former Celtic Al Jefferson had 13 points -- including five straight to tie the game at 93 -- and 14 boards. Utah lost its fifth straight at TD Garden but still out-rebounded Boston 48-33 (18-4 offensive).

"I'm proud of the way our guys fought," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought we hung in there, gave ourselves a chance to win."

Said Jefferson: "Boston is tough to score on when they set up their defense. I think for the most part we still had a chance to win at the end. That's all you can ask for against a great team on their home floor. We just missed some big shots that really could have helped us. But we're going to leave with our head up high."

NOTES: The Jazz were coming off a 140-133 overtime win in Toronto Monday night, the start of a four-game road trip that continues in Philadelphia Friday night and ends in Washington Saturday. ... Jefferson had 24 points and 17 rebounds in that game, Rivers saying before last night's game, "He just keeps getting better and better. The thing that I never thought I'd say about Al, he's just becoming a better passer." Jefferson can be a free agent after the season, loved his time in Boston and isn't ruling out a return, but the Celtics have cap problems.... Boston has sent draft picks Fab Melo and Kris Joseph to Maine of the NBA Development League to get some work. "It's great for both of them," said Rivers. "We actually thought of keeping Chris up, but we don't have any practice. Fab just needs to play. It's just going to take him a while. I think he'll do really well. There aren't many bigs in the league." Melo has yet to play a game with the Celtics, while Joseph made one appearance. ... Point guard Earl Watson, completing the six-month climb back from knee surgery, has rejoined the team but didn't dress Wednesday night. He appears to be close. "We'll see how he goes and how his body responds," Corbin said. "We're going to increase his activity a little bit and see how he responds to it."
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