The Utah Jazz make their only visit to the Garden for the 3rd game of a 4 game Eastern road trip. The Celtics beat the Jazz 114-103 in Utah on February 26 in the last game of a 4 game Western road trip. The Jazz swept the series 2-0 last season.
The Celtics are 36-13 all time against the Jazz in Boston. The Jazz have won their last two games at the Garden. This is the first game of back to back games for the Jazz. They will travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons on Friday.
The Celtics remain in third place in the East, 1.5 games behind the Raptors, who beat the Warriors in Curry’s return, and 2.5 games ahead of the Heat. The Celtics are 23-7 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are looking to win their second straight game.
The Jazz are in 5th place in the West. They are half a game behind the 4th place Rockets and 1.5 games ahead of the Thunder so they are definitely playing for their playoff position. They are 18-13 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 3 games.
Gordon Hayward won’t be available to face his former team but the Celtics should want to play hard and get a win for him anyway. He is out with a knee contusion that he suffered against the Nets. Jaylen Brown will also be out with a hamstring injury also suffered against the Nets. Carsen Edwards and Vincent Poirier are both assigned to the Red Claws.
I’m going to guess that Smart will start in place of Jaylen and that Grant Williams will start in place of Hayward, but I’m probably wrong. Kemba Walker is expected to be in the starting lineup, although still on a minutes restriction. For the Jazz, other than Nigel Williams-Goss (quad), they are fully healthy.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Grant Williams
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams III
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Gordon Hayward (knee) out
Vincent Poirier (G-league) out
Carsen Edwards (G-League) 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
Juwan Morgan (G-lLeague) out
Rayjon Tucker (G-league) out
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell is averaging 24.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting 45.8% from the field and 36.5% from beyond the arc. Mitchell scored 37 points in their last meeting. With Jaylen Brown out, I expect that Smart will start in his place and be tasked with trying to keep Mitchell from having another big scoring game. If Marcus wants the DPOY award, he can start earning it by not allowing Mitchell to get a career high against him.
Grant Williams vs Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 20.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc. I’m guessing that Grant Williams will once again start in place of Hayward, but I’m probably wrong. Brad may go with Semi, who had a big game on Wednesday or maybe even Romeo. Whoever starts here needs to stay with Bogdanovic because he is efficient and can put up lots of point in a hurry if not guarded closely.
Daniel Theis vs Rudy Gobert
Gobert averages 15.4 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. He shoots 69.9% 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 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 106.2 while the Jazz are 11th with a defensive rating of 108.9. The Celtics have allowed their defense to slip somewhat in their fast few games, allowing players to get to the rim at will, giving up 44 points (CLE), 50 points (BKN) and 46 point (HOU) in the paint in their last 3 games. They have to play better defense in the paint but against the Jazz, they also must guard the 3 point line as the Jazz are the number one team in the league shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc as a team. They need to get back to playing tough team defense if the want to win this 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 their game. The Celtics are averaging 46.0 rebounds per game while the Jazz are averaging 45.4 rebounds per game. The Celtics have allowed 12, 22 and 17 offensive rebounds in their past 3 games. They have to work harder on the boards if they hope to win this game.
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.
Bench Play - The Celtics will once again be short handed and will need every player to step up their game. They will especially need extra effort from their reserves. The Jazz average 47.5 points per game off their bench and the Celtics will need to get both tough defense and extra offense from their bench players.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be aggressive on both ends of the court. They have to dive for loose balls, fight for rebounds, take the ball strong to the basket and just play harder than the Jazz all the way around. The Jazz will be motivated since the Celtics beat them on their home court and so the Celtics have to be ready to take their best shot and play even harder. They have to play with heart and grit from start to finish.
Home Factor - The Celtics are home while the Jazz are playing in the 3rd of 4 road games. They will be tired from having crossed time zones and stayed in hotels, etc. The Celtics need to draw motivation from the home crowd and play harder in the friendly confines of the TD Garden.
Officiating Factor - 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 some bad calls and stay focused and not allow those bad calls take them out of their game.