It may have been the 22nd game of the season, but the environment in Vivint Arena on Friday night told a different story.

With Boston fans taking up a solid continent of the 18,300 available seats, the noise was deafening as the Jazz and Celtics traded heavyweight blows like it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

Both teams scored 41 points in the third in one of the most entertaining quarters of any game this season. There were 10 ties and 14 lead changes during those 12 minutes alone.

Thankfully, Utah’s all-star backcourt of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley landed the final blows of the fight. 

A combined 63 points from Mitchell and Conley — 24 of which came in the decisive fourth quarter — Utah extended its winning streak to three games following its 137-130 win over Boston. 

“There’s some nights where you don’t make (shots), and you get a night like tonight where the ball goes in, and we took advantage of it,” head coach Quin Snyder said postgame.

Here are five things you need to know following the win:

1.) All-Star Backcourt Is Potentially Best In The NBA
It’s always challenging to decide who’s the best player in the league. Is it Giannis Antetokounmpo? Kevin Durant? Steph Curry? Nikola Jokic? That debate can rage on all night.

That same difficulty comes when deciding who’s the best backcourt in the league. While it’s hard to figure out who the best is, there’s one duo who’s making a solid case for that title — Mitchell and Conley.

After both being selected to the all-star game last year, Mitchell and Conley had their best performances of the season on Friday night in a massive win over Boston.

Mitchell finished with a team-high 34 points on 12-of-22 shooting from the floor and 6-of-14 from beyond the arc. He added six assists and finished with a +12 rating.

Conley was just as impressive, finishing with 29 points. He shot 9-for-13 from the field and a perfect 7-for-7 from three-point territory, adding seven assists and four rebounds in a team-high +21 rating.

“Our two guards were terrific,” Snyder said postgame of Mitchell and Conley.

Most impressive, Mitchell and Conley were at their best when the Jazz needed them most.

Over the final 4:58 of the game, the duo combined to score 24 of Utah’s 28 points. They shot 7-for-7 from the floor, five of which came from beyond the arc — and Conley added four free throws in the end for good measure. The only points they didn’t score were back-to-back dunks by Rudy Gobert, both of which came on Conley’s assists.

It’s hard to depict the best starting backcourt in the league — especially with Phoenix’s duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker and Curry expected to get running mate Klay Thompson back soon. But one thing is for sure, Mitchell and Conley will have a say in the discussion before the season’s end.

2.) ‘Heartbeat’ Of The Team Comes Up Huge
After missing the past two games dealing with a right foot/ankle sprain, Royce O’Neale made his big return on Friday night.

While Joe Ingles played great when in the starting lineup in place of O’Neale, there are certain aspects of O’Neale’s game that no one can replace. Some of his most valuable traits are his versatility on the defensive end and his willingness to do the dirty work whenever needed. 

It’s why O’Neale was referred to as the “heartbeat of the team” during the pregame media session.

He lived up to that name against the Celtics. 

O’Neale finished with his first double-double of the season when he dropped 12 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in his most complete performance of the year.

“That bell keeps ringing, and he keeps answering,” Snyder said of O’Neale. “What he’s given us in terms of his toughness defensively, and then he’s been really consistent and really opportunistic making his shot. He knows when his shot is going to come, and he’s confident shooting it. Oftentimes the baskets he gets are big buckets.” 

As long as O’Neale keeps answering that bell, the Jazz will continue to be one of the league’s top offensive and defensive teams.

3.) Snow May Be Coming Next Week, But It Was Raining In Vivint Arena
Long overdue for a snowstorm in Utah, the weather inside Vivint Arena had some precipitation.

It was raining threes on Friday night as Utah knocked down a season-high 27 three-pointers, shooting 52.9% (27-for-51) from beyond the arc. It was most three-pointers made in a game this season and tied for fourth-most in league history — second-most in Jazz history.

Conley led the charge with a perfect 7-for-7 showing while Mitchell knocked down six from beyond the arc. Bojan Bogdanovic had four, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles each added three, while Rudy Gay and O’Neale finished with two.

It was a special moment from the league’s top-rated offense, proving just how versatile and dangerous they are when on fire. And what’s even scarier is that knocking down all of those three-pointers opens up the lane even more for Mitchell to slash, Conley to dominate in the pick-and-roll, and Gobert to own the paint.

Utah is at its best when it’s passing up good shots for great shots, and that was apparent on Friday night. The Jazz dished out 26 assists as Conley and Mitchell combined for half of them. 

It should be noted that the Jazz dropped 137 points against a team that entered the night with the league’s fifth-best defense. Boston had no answer for Utah’s efficiency, and if the Jazz can do that to Marcus Smart and co., the rest of the league had better take notice.

4.) Turnovers Remain An Issue When Utah Loses Focus
At the beginning of the game, the Jazz were sensational, jumping out to a 14-2 lead as Conley knocked down three early three-pointers. They extended that lead to 38-25 after the first quarter and appeared to be cruising.

But issues sprung up in the second quarter as Utah nearly saw its entire lead disappear and went into the half with a 59-56 advantage.

What went wrong was simple though, unforced turnovers leading to easy Boston points that took possessions away from the Jazz. The Celtics outscored Utah 31-21 in the quarter, making seven more shots from the field.

“In the first half, there was a stretch where we turned it over,” Snyder said. “A lot of them were unforced, just sloppy or careless. We needed to attack in the beginning of the possession, and the ball movement comes after.”

While the Jazz continue to be the league’s top offense — by a long shot — they also continue to be their own worst enemies with the turnovers. When Utah figures out how to cut down on them, it’s going to be a scary thought moving forward.

“Really, the only thing that let them back in the game was turnovers,” Mitchell said. “The problem is our turnovers weren’t like aggressive turnovers. You’ll take the ones where you’re driving and trying to pass and trying to make something happen, but it’s the ones when you’re just like lob passes and stuff like that.”

5.) Utah Closes Strong In Decisive Fourth Quarter
In the Jazz last two losses, they blew fourth quarter leads and lost on shots within the final seconds. 

After a 13-2 run punctuated by a Conley three-pointer with just under two minutes to play gave the Jazz a seven-point lead, Utah appeared to be on its way to a victory. But the Celtics responded as five quick points made it a one-score game with less than a minute to go.

This sort of story had played out in the last two losses, and it appeared the Jazz were on their way to that same fate again. 

But Conley and Mitchell made sure it wouldn’t happen. 

Conley responded to Boston’s mini-run with a three-pointer to get some breathing room. After two free throws by Jayson Tatum made it a one-score again, Mitchell hit the dagger with a deep three-pointer with 28.2 seconds to play. Conley then iced the game with four made free throws for the win.

“It was just fluid. … We knew exactly where we needed to be,” Mitchell said of the final few minutes of the game. “It was boom-boom-boom. I gotta give coach credit. … We’ve been through every situation, we’ve seen everything eight times in practice.”

While it was great to see the offense thrive in the closing moments, the defense deserves much credit. The Jazz locked down and made the Celtics take contested shots when it mattered most. 

If Utah can continue to find ways to come up in the clutch, they quickly transform into a team nobody wants to see in the postseason.


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