SALT LAKE CITY — Boston coach Doc Rivers reminded reporters Monday night about the difficulty of the Celtics’ road trip.
“Five games, seven nights, five different cities and three different time zones,” Rivers said.
A 110-107 overtime victory over the Utah Jazz undoubtedly made the flight home more enjoyable.
Paul Pierce scored 26 points, including seven in overtime, to lead the Celtics to the big win Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
“It was huge,” said Rivers, whose team went 2-3 on the trip. “It was the best win of the year for me.”
After DeMarre Carroll gave the Jazz a 101-99 lead with under three minutes remaining in OT, Pierce went on a tear to make up for missing a regulation-ending shot.
Pierce put Boston back in front with a 3-pointer and followed that with back-to-back jumpers to help the Celtics take a five-point lead with just over a minute left in the extra session.
Randy Foye’s attempt to send the game to double overtime was off the mark at the buzzer.
“We knew this was probably going to be the toughest game for us physically and mentally,” said Pierce, who had eight assists and seven rebounds. “Talking about a long trip, coming into one of the toughest places to play. We felt we could kind of salvage this trip with a win here.
“The guys did a good job of just being mentally tough, digging in and doing what we had to do to get the win.”
Kevin Garnett finished with 13 points, four in overtime, and 10 rebounds to help Boston end their trip on a positive note. The Celtics (30-27) lost Sunday night in Portland.
Reserve guard Gordon Hayward, who’d averaged 20 points in two games since returning from a 10-game injury absence, led the Jazz with 26 points.
Utah (31-26) lost for just the seventh time in 28 home games this season.
“You want to win the ballgame, and (the Utah players) are a little disappointed they didn’t finish it off,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “But I’m proud of the way they played and the fact we hung in there.”
Jazz center Al Jefferson totaled 15 points and 11 rebounds for his 27th double-double of the season. However, Jefferson, the Celtics’ 2004 first-round draft pick, continued his personal struggle against Boston, dropping to 0-11 against his old team in six seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah.
“It’s a loss — tough one that I feel like we could have won,” Jefferson said.
Boston’s Avery Bradley scored 18 points, Brandon Bass had 15, and Courtney Lee scored 14, including two clutch free throws with 1.2 seconds left in overtime. In all, the Celtics had six players in double figures and shot 47.7 percent.
Paul Millsap scored 16 points and Marvin Williams contributed 15 points for the Jazz, who were coming off a Saturday road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Utah, which shot 44.3 percent Monday, lost control of the game in the third quarter when it was outscored 32-19.
The Jazz have now lost to the Celtics five times in a row.
Boston didn’t show any signs of fatigue after falling 92-86 to the Trail Blazers on Sunday. The Celtics shook off their recent scoring slump, taking a 28-26 lead after the first quarter.
Boston stretched that to a 34-27 advantage when Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter.
The Jazz’s sixth man sparked a 15-0 run that included three 3-pointers.
Jeff Green ended the Celtics’ scoreless streak, but Hayward responded with a dunk to give Utah a 44-36 lead.
The Celtics then ran off with eight straight points before the Jazz finished the half strong to take a 53-48 lead into the locker room.
Boston came out strong in the third quarter, going ahead 70-62 after a
20-4 spurt capped by 3-pointers from Lee and Pierce.
The game of back-and-forth runs continued in the fourth when Utah tied things up at 85-85 after Carroll had consecutive passes that led to dunks by Enes Kanter and Hayward.
That set up the thrilling finish, with the two teams trading baskets the rest of regulation.
Alec Burks hit a tough left-handed layup over Garnett with 19.9 seconds remaining, and the game went to overtime thanks to Pierce’s miss at the buzzer.
Pierce made up for it in OT, though.
“Paul just made some tough shots,” Jefferson said. “I think DeMarre played tough defense on him. Paul just made tough shots. That’s why they call him ‘The Truth.’”
NOTES: Two days after admitting he was mulling a lineup change, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin made one happen by inserting Earl Watson into the first five in place of Jamaal Tinsley. With usual starting point guard Mo Williams still sidelined after surgery on his right thumb seven weeks ago, Corbin wanted to get a playmaker to push the ball more. “We’ve got to find a way to get some easy baskets with that first group,” Corbin said. “Hopefully, this will be a way to get it.” … Tinsley had started the previous 32 games since Williams went down with an injury in Miami on Dec. 22, but he didn’t play Monday. “Jamaal’s done a great job for us. We really appreciate his efforts,” Corbin said. “He’s a little banged up.” … Utah is 20-13 without Mo Williams. … Pierce has scored at least 20 points in each of the Celtics’ past five games against Utah.