for this game

Okur, Williams help Jazz outlast Celtics

Feb 20, 2009 - 7:40 AM SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- With their emotional leader sidelined, the Boston Celtics failed to hold off a red-hot team in one of the toughest environments in the NBA.

Mehmet Okur had 19 points and Deron Williams added 18 and 10 assists as the Utah Jazz claimed their third straight win with a thrilling 90-85 victory over the Celtics on Thursday.

Paul Pierce scored 20 points to lead four players in double figures and Kendrick Perkins added 12 points and 11 rebounds for Boston, which was forced to play the second half without the services of Kevin Garnett.

"Our guys played their butts off tonight, and we had many opportunities to win the game tonight," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I was happy with the way we played. ... When Kevin Garnett is out, your offense is going to struggle a little bit. I thought our defense was great and gave us a chance to win the game."

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Garnett left the game with 1:56 remaining in the second quarter due to a strained right knee suffered when he went up to grab a rebound.

Garnett took the floor for warmups before the second half, but returned to the locker room and was shut down for the rest of the game as a precaution.

"He wanted to run, but we have a long season and I'm not taking risk by putting him on the floor," Rivers said. "We would have loved to have him, obviously, it probably would have made a difference tonight. Unless he's close to 100 percent, I'd rather have him healthy for the playoffs is how I look at it."

Despite Garnett's absence, the Celtics carried a six-point advantage into the final frame and maintained their lead for the first half of the fourth.

"We did pretty well, came down, we got stops, came down to offense really," Boston guard Rajon Rondo said. "We just didn't get the ball in the basket. We got stops when it counted ... but for the most part, when the bell sounded, we didn't make the plays coming down the stretch that we know we're capable of making."

The Jazz, who have now won six of seven games this month, went on a 7-0 run to take a 77-76 lead with 5:44 remaining, setting up the thrilling finish.

With the score knotted at 83-83, Matt Harpring drained a jumper from the free-throw line to put Utah up by two points with 1:01 left to play.

"It's fun. I've said that my whole career, this is why you play the game," Harpring said. "It's rewarding when you get a win against a team like that."

Harpring pulled a rebound away from Ray Allen after the Celtics' All-Star missed a game-tying layup and Deron Williams crossed-up Allen on the offensive end before stepping back and draining a jumper that was nearly identical to his teammate's bucket on the previous possession.

"You know I always want the ball," Williams said. "When the game is on the line, I want the ball."

Pierce got an easy layup out of a timeout, but Andrei Kirilenko hit the first of two free throws and the Jazz came up with the rebound on the missed second shot to seal the victory and improve to 23-6 at home this season.

"That was a great win. I thought our guys really sucked it up and hung in there," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "It was tough all night. They had the lead on us ... and I think we just kept at it when we saw we had a chance to win the ball game.

"Matt Harpring, I can't say enough about him. He did everything he could to try to guard Pierce and that's really a load to try to do but he really did a terrific job."