If nothing else, the Boston Celtics have to be feeling a lot of déjà vu after this first month of the season. After a home-and-home with the Detroit Pistons and a two-game split with the Toronto Raptors, the Utah Jazz will (somehow) become the third team they’ve played more than once, just 16 games into the season.
Both teams have started disappointingly slow for franchises hoping to make deep playoff runs, but the circumstances surrounding each aren’t quite the same as last time. Since their first face-off, the Jazz absorbed arguably the most humiliating loss in the NBA, falling to the lottery-bound Dallas Mavericks by a whopping 50 points on Wednesday night before narrowly losing to the Philadelphia 76ers last night. Against the Sixers, Donovan Mitchell made some dubious history: he became the first player to take 35+ shots while dishing zero assists since Carmelo Anthony’s 62-point game in 2014...and unlike Melo, Mitchell would manage only to score only 31.
The Celtics, meanwhile, enter the game winners of two straight, having demolished the hapless Chicago Bulls on Thursday and outplayed the conference-leading Toronto Raptors in a thrilling overtime spectacle last night. After a 1-4 road trip plagued by inconsistent effort and offensive discombobulation, the Celtics have looked like a team possessed; they’ve played with outstanding aggression and the open shots they’ve been generating all season are finally starting to fall. Over their past two games, they’ve had a net rating of +16.3 and a blistering true shooting percentage of 59.8%.
Now, trending the wrong direction, the Jazz will travel to TD Garden to face a Celtics team that looks more energized than ever. Even with Kyrie Irving absent for personal reasons, the Jazz needed a late-game surge at home to hold off a furious Boston comeback, and now he’ll take the court coming off his finest game of the season, a dominant 43-point, 11-assist performance against the Raptors.
Irving isn’t the only one feeling confident, either. Jayson Tatum has scored 20+ points in three of his last four games while shooting better than 50% from behind the three-point arc, and seems to be rapidly emerging from his early-season malaise. Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward — who made his dramatic return to Salt Lake City in the teams’ last game — is coming off his most exciting performance since returning to the court, playing 39 minutes against the Raptors and helping ice the overtime victory with 15 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals. Now, with his minutes limit clearly lifted, Hayward would no doubt love to build on that performance — and get a bit of payback against his former team in the process.
Both teams will be playing the second half of a back-to-back, and both teams are largely healthy — Marcus Morris has recovered from the illness that held him out against the Bulls, and the Jazz will miss only little-used reserve guard Raul Neto. With the Celtics staring down a significantly lighter upcoming schedule — seven of their next nine opponents missed the playoffs last season — sweeping a back-to-back against could-be Finals contenders would be a great way to kick start some serious momentum to close out November.
PG – Kyrie Irving vs Ricky Rubio
SG – Jaylen Brown vs Donovan Mitchell
SF – Jayson Tatum vs Joe Ingles
PF – Gordon Hayward vs Derrick Favors
C – Al Horford vs Rudy Gobert
Boston – No injuries reported
Utah — Raul Neto (Hamstring)
How to Watch
Time – 7:30 PM EST
TV — NBA TV