The Celtics close out their four game Western road trip in Utah for the first of two regular season games against the Jazz. They will meet one more time on March 6 in Boston. The Jazz swept the Celtics 2-0 last season, winning 98-86 in Boston and 123-115 in Utah.
The Celtics are 57-41 all time overall vs the Jazz and 21-28 all time in Utah. The Jazz are on the 5th game of a 6 game home stand. They are 1-3 so far on the home stand and have lost 3 straight. The Celtics are playing in the second game of a back to back set. They are 3-4 so far on the second night of back to back games and 1-0 when the games are both on the road.
Their last loss at home was a 131-111 loss to the struggling lottery bound Phoenix Suns. The Jazz allowed the Suns to shoot 56.3% from the field for the game. They also allowed the Suns to score 66 points in the paint, and to make 60% of their 3-point attempts. They turned the ball over 20 times and, in spite of having one of the top rebounders on their team, were out rebounded 38-30. They also shot 43 free throws to just 24 for the Suns and still lost. Needless to say, the Jazz struggled in that one and will be looking to come out strong and get back on track in this one. The Celtics need to be ready for a strong effort from them.
The Celtics are still 3rd in the East, 1.5 games behind the Raptors and 4 games ahead of the Heat. They are 17-12 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 15-8 vs Western Conference teams. The Jazz are 5th in the West. They are 20-8 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 15-5 vs Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are looking to win their 2nd straight game while the Jazz are looking to avoid a 4 game home losing streak.
Kemba Walker will miss his 4th straight game with the sore knee. Robert Williams will also miss this game although he is close to a return and is scheduled for a scan at the end of the week that could clear him for a return. For the Jazz, only Nigel Williams-Goss (quad) and Miye Oni (G-League) are out.
Against the Suns, the Jazz replaced Royce O’Neale with Mike Conley in the starting lineup. At shoot around today, they were informed that Conley would be out and O’Neale back in the lineup. Head coach Quin Snyder later informed them that Conley would remain in the lineup and Joe Ingles would be removed. O’Neale is their best perimeter defender and they likely want him to guard Jayson Tatum, who has been on a tear of late. Snyder is playing musical players while trying to get his team back on track after 3 home losses in a row.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams (hip) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Two Way Players
Probable Jazz Starters
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Royce O’Neale
C: Rudy Gobert
Nigel Williams-Goss (quad) out
Miye Oni (G-League) out
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell is averaging 24.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting 45.9% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. Mitchell is coming off a 38 point game vs the Suns and is a threat to have a big game in this one also. Jaylen will need to stick with Mitchell to keep him from having another big game.
Gordon Hayward vs Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 20.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He is shooting 44.8% from the field and 41.8% from beyond the arc. Hayward will need to stay with him on the perimeter where he is a big threat to score. Gordon may get booed or cheered and hopefully he will be motivated by whichever reaction the fans give him.
Daniel Theis vs Rudy Gobert
Gobert averages 15.6 points, 14.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He shoots 68.7% from the field and hasn’t shot a 3 pointer this season. Daniel Theis needs to box him out and keep him off the boards and out of the paint as much as possible. It would also help if Theis can hit some outside shots to draw him out to the perimeter.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning each and every game. The Celtics are 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 105.8 while the Jazz are 13th with a defensive rating of 108.3. The Celtics must play tough swarming TEAM defense along with tough individual defense. The Celtics must particularly guard the 3 point line as the Jazz are the number one team in the league shooting 38.4% from beyond the arc as a team.
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 their game. The Celtics are averaging 45.9 rebounds per game while the Jazz are averaging 45.5 rebounds per game. If they want to win this game they need to crash the boards and out-rebound the Jazz.
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 at will. 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.
End of the Road - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 4 game Western road trip. The last game in a road trip is always a tough one as the team is road weary and tired and may struggle to keep their focus. They have to stay focused on playing Celtics basketball and block out all the distractions that come from playing on the road. They are also playing in back to back games and fatigue could set in from being on the road and from playing two nights in a row. The Jazz had Tuesday off while the Celtics played in Portland and then traveled to get to this game. The Celtics need to keep their focus and play hard with no let up.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Will they let them play or will they call every ticky tack foul? It’s usually to the Celtics’ benefit if they let both teams play. Will they call it fair or will they favor one team over the other? We never know what any given crew will do. They need to expect home cooking for the Jazz and stay focused and not allow bad calls take them out of their game