Before Kenny Anderson could make the difference in the closing minutes, he had to persuade Boston coach Rick Pitino to let him play in the third quarter.
Anderson scored 19 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics beat the Utah Jazz 101-99 on Tuesday night, Boston's first victory over Utah since Larry Bird's playing days.
"I just felt good out there," Anderson said. "I was feeling it, man. My shots were just going in. I was in a zone."
"Kenny Anderson played great," said Antoine Walker, who scored 19 points for the Celtics. "He did a great job of getting to the basket and making the shots for us, and we all played great in the fourth quarter."
With the Celtics trying to rally from a 42-33 halftime deficit, Pitino was ready to insert backup point guard Dana Baros in the third. Anderson convinced Pitino to leave him in.
"He said, 'Go with me,"' Pitino said. "And I said, 'OK, I'm going with you."'
The Celtics last beat Utah in 1991-92, Bird's final season. The victory also was Boston's first in Salt Lake City since January 1988, ending a 10-game losing streak in Salt Lake to the Jazz.
Utah had occasional defensive lapses and often couldn't seem to get needed baskets or breaks. But as far as coach Jerry Sloan was concerned, the bottom line was Boston's 68 points in the second half.
"If you would have seen us practice yesterday, you would have asked how we scored this many points," Sloan said. "They (Celtics) came in here ready to beat us, and it was interesting to watch them play. We couldn't stop them."
The Jazz forced a final chance when Bryon Russell, who hit a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left, intercepted Boston's inbounds pass and called timeout with two seconds remaining.
Russell inbounded to Stockton, whose running scoop shot from 10 feet bounced off the close side of the rim as the horn sounded.
It was a dramatic fourth quarter, with nine lead changes and four ties. When Anderson hit two foul shots with 9.9 seconds left, Boston's 101-96 lead seemed safe until Russell's late efforts came up just short.
Both teams ran hot and cold all night.
First, the Celtics opened a 22-12 lead after a first quarter in which the Jazz shot 21 percent (4-of-19). The Jazz came back in the second, using an 18-0 run over a four-minute span to build a 42-33 lead at halftime.
Utah worked hard defensively over that span, holding the Celtics to 11 points in the period and one field goal in the last seven minutes of the second quarter: a tip-in by Walter McCarty with 48.4 seconds before the break.
"When we came in at halftime, I said, 'Guys, we've got to play with offensive enthusiasm and believe you can win,"' Pitino said. "If you play a halfcourt, top-of-the-key to backcourt game with the Utah Jazz, you're not going to win."
The Jazz led 72-66 after the third quarter but couldn't hold off Anderson, who made a 3-pointer and added a three-point play to tie it at 77-77 with 7:20 remaining.
After Malone made two free throws, Anderson answered with another 3-pointer with 6:54 to play and the Celtics led 80-79. When Malone made two free throws to give Utah a 92-91 lead with 2:56 left, Anderson split two defenders in the lane for a layup at the other end.
It was close the rest of the way, but the game got away from the Jazz when Malone's pass in the lane to Eisley went awry with just under one minute left. Pierce had a key block of Stockton in the final seconds.
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