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Celtics continue home stand with a visit from the Utah Jazz

The Celtics welcome the Utah Jazz to the Garden for the first of two meetings between two very similar teams.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Utah Jazz (22-13) at Boston Celtics (20-14)
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #35 Home Game #15
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, KZNS
TD Garden

Referees: Brian Forte, Curtis Blair, Kevin Scott

The Celtics continue their home stand with a visit from the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are playing in the second game of a road trip that started on Monday with a win over the Brooklyn Nets. The Jazz have won 4 straight games and are playing very well. This is the first of two games between these two teams with the Celtics visiting Utah in February.

The Jazz are playing in back to back games. They are 5-2 on the second night of back to back games and 2-1 when both games are on the road. These two teams tied the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics have been off since their win over Miami on Friday night.

Avery Bradley missed Friday's game with a respiratory illness. He was back at practice on Monday and is expected to play. Marcus Smart (intestinal issue) and Tyler Zeller (sinus problem) were admitted to the hospital on Sunday night and were released from the hospital on Tuesday morning. Both are listed as game time decisions for this game. James Young missed practice with an ankle sprain and is questionable to play in this game.

Just 2 days after returning from a toe injury that kept him out over a month, George Hill was elbowed in Utah's win over the Suns and received 18 stitches in his mouth and also was put into the league's concussion protocol and is doubtful for this game. Shelvin Mack started on Monday and will start this game as well if Hill still has not been cleared. Dante Exum is battling tendinitis in his knee and is also doubtful for this game after missing the last 6 games for the Jazz.

Both Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward played for Brad Stevens at Butler. Hayward has been mentioned in several conversations as a target for the Celtics via trade or free agency. Mack played for the Red Claws before getting his call up to the NBA. The Celtics are 8-6 at home while the Jazz are 9-6 on the road.

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Al Horford
C: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves
Jaylen Brown
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey

Marcus Smart (illness) game time decision
Tyler Zeller (illness) game time decision
James Young (ankle) game time decision

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Shelvin Mack
SG: Rodney Hood
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert

Jazz Reserves

Joel Bolomboy
Alec Burks
Boris Diaw
Joe Ingles
Joe Johnson
Trey Lyles
Raul Neto
Jeff Withey

George Hill (concussion) doubtful
Dante Exum (knee) doubtful

Head Coach
Quin Snyder
Key Matchups
Jae Crowder vs Gordon Hayward
Brad Stevens' former Butler player, Gordon Hayward is leading the Jazz with 22.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. In the two games last season, Hayward averaged 19 points and 5 assists. Keeping him off the free throw line will also be important. Hayward has 7.9 free throw attempts in the Jazz' wins this season but just 5 attempts in their losses. If Jae can slow Hayward down while keeping him off the free throw line, it will give the Celtics a good chance to grab a win in this one.

Amir Johnson vs Rudy Gobert
The 7'1" Gobert has a height advantage over Amir and Al and is averaging 12.5 points,12.0 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks a game. Last season, Gobert averaged 11.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. They will need to keep him out of the paint as much as possible to give themselves a better chance to win.

Honorable Mention

Isaiah Thomas vs Shelvin Mack
Starting for the injured George Hill, Mack averaged 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in the month the month of December, while shooting 46.5% from the field. If Hill completes the concussion protocol, he may start. Hill is averaging 18.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. both are 6'3" and would have a height advantage over Isaiah, but we know that Isaiah has overcome bigger odds than that. The Celtics need Isaiah to play well if they want to get a win.

Keys to the Game
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and when the Celtics put out that effort on the boards, we see it in the other areas of the game. The Celtics are averaging 41.3 rebounds per game while the Jazz are averaging 42.4 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to box out and put out the effort to win the battle of the boards.

Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics have to take care of the ball, make smart passes, and limit their turnovers. The Jazz average 15.7 points off of turnovers and the Celtics don't want to give them extra points by getting careless with the ball. The Celtics can't lose focus and give the Jazz a chance to get easy points.

Play 48 Minutes
- The Celtics can't afford to dig a hole at the beginning of the game and they can't let up at the end and lose focus and miss shots and allow the Jazz to score. They also can't afford those periods in the game where they turn the ball over and lose their focus. They have to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

Defense - Defense is the key to winning each and every game. The Celtics must play the swarming team defense that we saw from them last season. Brad Stevens stressed defense in their practice on Monday after seeing the team defense slip recently. The Jazz are a good defensive team with a defensive rating of 101.2. The Celtics have let their defense slip and have a defensive rating of 106.3. Defense wins games and the Celtics must get back to playing that tough swarming TEAM defense that was their trademark last season.

Home Factor - The Celtics haven't been as dominant as they would like at home this season. They now have a stretch where they will play more home games than road games and they need to establish their home court dominance over this coming month and it starts here. They need to draw motivation from the home crowd, which should be rocking.

Injury Factor - Injuries may influence the outcome of this game. George Hill and Dante Exum are both doubtful for the Jazz and Hill, especially is big loss. The Jazz are 10-12 without him and 10-3 with him in the starting lineup. For the Celtics, Marcus Smart has been playing very well recently and will be tough to replace in the Celtics lineup.

Officiating Factor - The officiating is an x factor for every game. Every officiating crew calls games differently. Some call every little foul making it difficult to get any rhythm and some let the teams play. Some refs have an agenda and call the game for or against a particular team or player or to favor the home team. And there are always star calls no matter who the referees are. Regardless of how the game is called, the Celtics need to play through it and keep their focus.

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