Another strong performance by Jayson Tatum helped the Boston Celtics move a step closer to first place in the Eastern Conference standings by earning a 122-114 home victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
The win moved Boston (54-24) within one and one-half games of idle Milwaukee, which has the NBA’s best record (55-22).
Tatum scored a game-high 39 points and also had 11 rebounds. He was 12 of 17 from the field, and made five of his eight 3-point attempts.
Malcolm Brogdon came off the bench to score 19 points and record seven assists for the Celtics, who received 17 points from Derrick White and 12 rebounds from Blake Griffin.
Talen Horton-Tucker led the Jazz with 28 points and seven assists along with eight rebounds. Center Walker Kessler added 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Jazz (36-41) remained in 12th place in the Western Conference standings. Utah is two games behind Oklahoma City and one game behind Dallas, and will have to pass both to qualify for the Western Conference play-in tournament.
Neither team was close to full strength. Center Rob Williams (knee) and forward Al Horford (back) were unavailable for the Celtics, while the Jazz played without forward Lauri Markkanen, guard Jordan Clarkson, forward Rudy Gay and guard Collin Sexton. Markkanen (25.7 ppg.), Clarkson (20.8 ppg.) and Sexton (14.3 ppg) are Utah’s top three scorers.
Utah had a 29-27 advantage after one quarter, but Boston led 57-51 at halftime. A 19-8 run put the Celtics up 91-76 with 45 seconds remaining in the third, and Boston carried a 93-78 lead into the fourth.
Boston’s lead didn’t dip below 10 points until a Horton-Tucker layup made it a 120-112 game with 1:04 to play.
Utah won the first meeting between the teams this season 118-117 on March 18. The Celtics led by 19 in that game but were outscored 84-64 over the final 30 minutes and 30 seconds.