Game #42, Home# 24
Officials: Ken Mauer, Leroy Richardson, Zach Zarba
TV: CSN-NE, FSR-UT Radio: WEEI
The Line: The Celtics have won 4 straight games, the Jazz
have lost 4 of their last 5 road games, the Celtics split the season
series against the Jazz last year, with the Jazz winning
the last game.
GAME THREAD | CHAT ROOM
The Celtics and Jazz have had very different weeks recently. The Celtics are 2-0 on the week, and they are performing like the elite team they purport themselves to be. They beat Orlando for the first time this season on Monday, and they showed they have the muster to still win even when everything seems to be going wrong, when they eeked out a W against Detroit on Wednesday.
The Jazz, however, are living up to their own 'not ready for primetime' reputation also. They are just 12-10 since their last real win streak ended in late November, and their wins during that time have been at times as puzzling and impressive as their losses. They beat Orlando on 12/10, and beat New York on 1/12. However, last week alone they lost to 2 of the bottom 3 teams in the East in consecutive games against Washington and New Jersey.
Utah is feeling pretty low about the last 2 games, so don't be surprised if they come out with a chip on their shoulder tonight. However, both teams are on the front end of a back to back game, so look for Boston to be a little hesitant as well. With 25 minutes logged against Detroit, Shaq played 25 mins or more in 3 consecutive game for the first time this season. Coupling that with a pretty heavy schedule of 7 games over the next 9 games starting tonight, and the Celtics might be a bit reluctant to play any of their starters for big minutes, even in a game like to night that might demand it for a win.
Injuries And Stuff: Kendrick Perkins (OUT, but coming along), Delonte West (OUT, but coming along), Jermaine O'Neal (OUT), Marquis Daniels (DTD)
Injuries And Stuff: Mehmet Okur (OUT)
Match-Up Of The Night: Paul Millsap V Kevin Garnett
Al Jefferson is the guy on Utah's roster that we're all probably the most excited to see, and Deron Williams is the most talented player, but Paul Millsap holds the keys to this game.
With the way he's playing right now, last season Millsap would've ravaged KG. Just torn him apart. Millsap is all about athleticism and hustle, and while KG didn't lack desire last season, he did lack explosiveness and lateral movement. Millsap has been hitting his mid-range and outside shots too, so KG couldn't just camp on him, you have to guard him straight up.
KG though is not the same player he was last season. He is better. His shot is falling, he's rebounding better, and he's moving better laterally than he was in last season's playoffs. While last season because of Millsap's explosiveness KG would've been a borderline liability, this season Millsap will be forced to work hard on both ends of the floor to see and positive production.
Three Keys To The Game For The Good Guys
1) Discourage Them Early, Watch Them Cower: The Jazz are 2 games in on a 5 game road trip, culminating in a match-up against Western Conference rivals (and I use the word loosely) Los Angeles Lakers. Teams get a bit more...pragmatic on long road trips. Momentum means so much more, and right now for all intensive motivational purposes, Utah is trying to start a fire underwater.
They're at once looking forward to the game against LA on next Tuesday (they're a solid six games back on the Lakers) and looking back on their embarrassing losses earlier this week. If the Celtics can pull away early, they can force the Jazz to write tonight's game off. If the Celtics allow the Jazz to build a small lead early, they're allowing Utah to have some shimmer of a hope that this road trip isn't a total waste, and that Jerry Sloan WON'T hit them all with a sock full of batteries tonight.
2) The Space Between....: Both Kevin Garnett and Paul Millsap will need to be spreading the floor at times tonight. KG is more of a pure jump shooter than Millsap, but both guys have to clear the lane for their bigger and less versatile centers to operate efficiently. The rub will be which team deals with the spacing better. If KG and Glen Davis simultaneously force Millsap and Jefferson out of the lane, Rajon Rondo will have the opportunity to do some real damage. The same however goes for Deron Williams if KG and Shaq wander too far from the painted area.
3) Cheer For Al Jefferson: This won't affect whether we win or lose, but our man Big Al (they grow up so fast!) is finally on a winning team in a role he's becoming more and more comfortable with, despite some early season awkwardness. We got love for ya Big Al! Hope you lose tonight, and bad!