Comments PrintJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Celtics players celebrated after Tyler Zeller’s winning shot.

When it looked as if the Celtics would suffer another crushing loss, another wasted fourth-quarter lead, and another solid effort, Tyler Zeller took advantage of the rare occasion when 7-foot-2-inch Rudy Gobert wasn’t breathing down his neck.
Catching an inbounds pass from Marcus Smart with 1.7 seconds left, Zeller took about 1.5 before sinking a reverse layup at the buzzer, sealing a thrilling 85-84 Celtics victory over the Jazz Wednesday night at TD Garden.

The Celtics blew an 8-point lead and looked cooked when former Brad Stevens pupil Gordon Hayward drained a 14-footer with 1.7 seconds left to cap an 11-2 Jazz run in the span of 2:15. The Celtics called a timeout to move the ball to half court, and then another 20-second timeout when Smart was unable to inbound the ball.
Utah coach Quin Snyder assigned Gobert to defend the inbounds pass, and he didn’t jump, allowing Smart to loft a perfect past to the 7-foot Zeller, who leaped, landed, and spun between Rodney Hood and Hayward. Zeller then flipped in the layup just moments before Gobert rushed for the block, giving the Celtics an encouraging win before a three-game trip.
Zeller stood stoic while his teammates charged him in celebration. The improbable play erased what would have been a difficult setback. Instead, the Celtics were lauding Stevens for the final play, a stunner considering Zeller was hardly considered an option. He has spent most of the season getting pounded by opposing centers, and spent most of Wednesday dueling with Gobert.

Box score: Celtics 85, Jazz 84

“This is definitely my first [game-winner] in the NBA,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure it was good. That’s really all I wanted to know. It was a great thing and Marcus put it right on the money, made my job easier. It’s a great feeling, especially [because] at the other end, Gordon had made the shot on me, so being able to come back and make the game-winner is an unbelievable feeling and this was kind of a must-win for us, so being able to get this win was big.’’
The win kept the Celtics within two games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston led, 81-73, with 2:31 left after an Isaiah Thomas jumper. …Read More