BOSTON (AP) - Shaquille O'Neal left in the first quarter, and his trip to Washington for Saturday's game was canceled. The thought of it left Kevin Garnett shaking his head in exasperation.
``It's like a soap opera,' the Celtics forward said. ``You've got to be ready on this team. You never know who's going to go down.'
Garnett scored 21 points to lead the Boston Celtics to their fifth straight win, a 110-86 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night despite losing O'Neal for most of the game and at least one more.
Paul Pierce added 20, Rajon Rondo had 12 assists and Semih Erden scored a career-high 14 points filling in after O'Neal went out.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said O'Neal's hip ``locked up' in the first three minutes and he would not play against the Wizards. The 38-year-old former NBA MVP has already missed nine games with injuries this season, even though Rivers has tried to managed his minutes.
The Celtics are already without Kendrick Perkins, who has not returned after tearing knee ligaments during the NBA finals, and Jermaine O'Neal is out another month with his injured left knee.
Rivers started Erden, a rookie from Turkey, in the second half so he could be on the floor with Garnett and the rest of the starters.
``We're probably going to need him, probably over the next couple of games,' Rivers said. ``It forces you to play harder when you play with that group because Kevin's out there and he demands it.'
Glen ``Big Baby' Davis scored 15 for Boston, which scored the last 11 points of the first half and never led by fewer than 17 in the second.
Deron Williams had a season-low five points for the Jazz, who have lost three in a row. He made just one basket - his fewest in almost 12 months - to end a string of 48 straight regular-season games of double-digit scoring.
``I was ready to get out there and play today. If I could have just got a chance, maybe could have done something,' said Williams, who had a stomach bug on Wednesday and missed the pregame shootaround but played against New Jersey. ``But I didn't have a rhythm early. Two quick fouls - two quick calls, I should say - took me out of my game and I really couldn't recover.'
Williams took just four shots and played a season-low 23 minutes, picking up his second foul with 8 minutes left in the first quarter and his third with seven minutes left in the half. Utah's leading scorer with 22.1 points per game, he didn't score at all until 8:28 remained in the third quarter.
Earl Watson scored 12 for Utah, while Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward and Andrei Kirilenko had 11 apiece.
The three-game losing streak, following losses at Washington and New Jersey, is the longest of the season for the Jazz. The losses to the Wizards and Nets, two of the worst teams in the NBA, were relatively close; Friday's game against the Celtics never really was.
``You can see why they've been so good,' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. ``They've got guys that can get up and do that. If you're going to compete against them, you'd better be able to take it, and like it and get up and do it yourself.'
Boston scored seven of the first nine points and led by 16 later in the first quarter. After allowing Utah to score nine straight points to close the gap to seven, the Celtics scored the last 11 of the half and took a 59-41 lead.
Pierce, Garnett, Ray Allen and Davis were already in double figures at halftime, when Rondo had 10 assists; Boston shot 59 percent in the first half to Utah's 38 percent.
Utah briefly got within 17 points in the third quarter and 19 in the fourth.
The biggest problem for Boston was the loss of Shaquille O'Neal in the first quarter to a leg injury. O'Neal went into the courtside seats after a loose ball - he didn't get it, but he gave a fan a hug - and played just six minutes total, scoring one basket.
NOTES: Allen converted a four-point play when he hit a 3-pointer while drawing a foul from Raja Bell with 7:05 left in the second. ... Al Jefferson, who had seven points and five rebounds, played three seasons with the Celtics after they drafted him 15th overall in 2004, then traded him to Minnesota in the deal that brought Garnett to Boston. ... The Celtics scored half of their 26 points in the third quarter from the foul line, going 13 for 14. ... Williams' season-low had been the 10 points he scored against New Orleans on Dec. 17.
The Associated Press News Service
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