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Shorthanded Celtics look to sweep series from the Utah Jazz

The Celtics face the Jazz without Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder and will need everyone to step up if they hope to beat the defensive minded Jazz.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (34-19) at Utah Jazz (34-20)
Saturday, February 11, 2017
10:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #54 Road Game #27
TV: CSN-NE, ROOT, NBA-LP 762(DTV)/752(xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 1285 AM
Vivint Smart Home Arena
Referees: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brown, Dedric Taylor

The Celtics are 1-1 so far on their Western road trip and continue the trip with a stop in Utah to take on the Jazz. These two teams tied the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics won the first meeting between these two teams 115-104 in Boston on January 3.

These two teams have very similar records with the Celtics at 34-19 and the Jazz at 34-20. Both teams are 15-11 on the road. The Celtics are 19-8 at home while the Jazz are 19-9 at home. Te Celtics are looking to win their 2nd straight and 8 out of their last 9 games. The Jazz are coming off a loss and hope to get back on track by gaining revenge for their previous loss to the Celtics this season. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Jazz are 6-4 in their last 10.

The Jazz are a big team with a 6'6" point guard in Exum, a 6'8" shooting guard in Ingles, a 6'8" small forward in Hayward, a 6'10" power forward in Favors, and a 7'1" center in Gobert. They have a height advantage at just about every position. The Celtics have to find a way to combat the length of the Jazz.

Avery Bradley didn't accompany the team on the road trip and will once again be out for the Celtics. Jae Crowder was a late scratch for Thursday's game against the Blazers for personal reasons and will miss this game as well. Marcus Smart should get the start in his place. Rodney Hood is expected to be out for the Jazz with a knee injury. George Hill is day to day with a toe injury.

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. When the Jazz played in Boston and the fans cheered for Hayward when he was announced, it didn't sit well with Jae Crowder, who played one of his best games that night. It will be interesting to see how it goes if Jae returns to the lineup for this one. Shelvin Mack played for the Red Claws before getting his call up to the NBA.

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Marcus Smart
PF: Al Horford
C: Amir Johnson

Celtics Reserves
Gerald Green
Terry Rozier
Jonas Jerebko
Kelly Olynyk
Demetrius Jackson
Jordan Mickey
Tyler Zeller
James Young

Avery Bradley (Achilles) out
Jae Crowder (personal) out

Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Dante Exum
SG: Joe Ingles
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Rudy Gobert

Jazz Reserves

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

George Hill (toe) day to day
Rodney Hood (knee) out

Head Coach
Quin Snyder

Key Matchups
Marcus Smart vs Gordon Hayward
Brad Stevens' former Butler player, Gordon Hayward is leading the Jazz with 22.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. In the two games last season, Hayward averaged 19 points and 5 assists. With Jae Crowder being out once again this game, it will fall to Marcus Smart to try to limit Hayward's contributions.

Amir Johnson vs Rudy Gobert
The 7'1" Gobert has a height advantage over Amir and Al and is averaging 13.0 points,12.6 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game. Last season, Gobert averaged 11.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in the two games vs the Celtics. They will need to keep him out of the paint as much as possible to give themselves a better chance to win.

Honorable Mention

Al Horford vs Derrick Favors
Favors is averaging 9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. He averaged 17.0 points and 13.0 rebounds against the Celtics last season. He is capable of having a big game if they don't stay with him on defense.

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 41.9 rebounds per game while the Jazz are averaging 42.9 rebounds per game. The Celtics are 15-1 when they out-rebound their opponents. 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 14.8 points off of turnovers and the Celtics don't want to give them extra points by getting careless with the ball.

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 had to come back from 17 down against the Blazers but it won't be easy to come back against the Jazz so they have to avoid a slow start. 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 but has been seen in streaks this season. The Jazz are 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 101.6. The Celtics have let their defense slip and are 19th with 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.

Short Handed - If Jae is able to return to the team, it will be much easier for the Celtics. Hopefully the family emergency wasn't serious and he will be back and able to contain Hayward in this game.

Focus and Fatigue - The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game of a 4 game road trip. They are playing in the 3rd game in 4 nights and in front of a hostile crowd. They have to stay focused on playing their game and not on all the factors that make playing on the road difficult. Fatigue may come into play but hopefully the Celtics' depth will help them to finish strong.

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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