Kemba Walker missing games this season has drawn more attention to his Boston Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum.
When that happens, it puts a greater premium on those around Tatum to elevate their play and make teams pay for focusing on the All-Star.
Tatum, who had 33 points in the C's 114-103 win over Utah, is on the kind of scoring binge that has set him apart not just from his teammates, but from most of the top players in the NBA.
His play set the tone for Boston’s strong start against Utah, but the Jazz got back into the game and made it a back-and-forth tussle for most the final three quarters.
The Celtics began to separate themselves in the fourth, getting solid contributions from bench players at both ends of the floor to pull away for another win - their 11th in their past 13.
Here are a few takeaways from a solid win that closes a strong 3-1 trip west:
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR C'S? A LOT
Jaylen Brown was one of the most outspoken Celtics when it came to talking about the need for players to do a better job of supporting Tatum when he has it going offensively.
Brown was more than up to the challenge, finishing with 20 points, including 10 points in a third quarter that ended with the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead.
The Celtics have the kind of roster where the offensive pecking order will fluctuate from game-to-game. Still, Brown has consistently shown he's the kind of player who makes the most of an increased opportunity and Wednesday was no exception.
Indeed, it has worked out well for Boston this season and will need to continue to be part of who they are going forward.
PLAYING (MARCUS) SMART DOWN THE STRETCH
Marcus Smart makes shots in the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart makes shots in the fourth quarter. It’s worth repeating because, for some reason, Celtics opponents consistently leave him wide open.
And to Smart’s credit, he continues to make the opposition pay when it matters most.
Smart had 17 points, nine in the fourth quarter. He also led the Celtics with nine assists.
Knocking down shots in the fourth is something that Smart does consistently. Now, those shots are coming with even less resistance because of the added attention being paid to Tatum.
INSIDE JOB BY BOSTON
Much is made of Boston’s lack of bigs, and yet they continue to do what teams with size do: generate points in the paint.
Boston won the paint battle against Utah, outscoring the Jazz 56-46 in the paint in addition to out-rebounding them, 44-41.
The Celtics have consistently mixed up their inside scoring coming from drives and post-ups, a good mix that has kept defenses off balance and in many instances, incapable of slowing them down.
Having multiple guys who can finish at the rim while creating their own shot, poses a great challenge to most defenses.
And maybe most important, it has given the Celtics exactly what they are seeking every night: a win.
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