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Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz Game #23 2/9/21

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The Celtics save the best for last as they take on the first place Utah Jazz to end their Western road trip.

Utah Jazz v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics finally reach the fifth and final game of this road trip as they take on the Jazz in Utah. These two teams were 1-1 last season with each team winning on the road. Their second game was just days before the NBA shut down due to the pandemic. The Celtics are 2-2 on the trip so far and need to win this game to give them a winning record on the trip.

The Celtics are 4th in the East, 4 games behind the 76ers, who are in first place. They are 7-7 on the road and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 3-4 against Western Conference teams. As of Monday, the Jazz are 1st in the NBA, 1 game ahead of the Lakers in the West. They are 9-2 at home and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are on a 4 game win streak.

The Jazz are the only team in the league who are in the top 5 in both offensive rating (115.7) and defensive rating (107.4). They also have the highest net rating in the league at 8.4. The Celtics are 58-42 all time vs the Jazz and they are 22-28 all time in Utah.

Jaylen Brown has missed the last two games with a sore knee. He is listed as a game time decision for this game and I’m being optimistic and listing him in the starting lineup. Grant Williams will likely get the start if Brown can’t play. Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist) both remain out.

Mike Conley injured his hamstring in Friday’s game vs the Hornets and is expected to miss this game as well. Joe Ingles started in his place on Sunday and will likely do so again in this game. Elijah Hughes (ankle) and Juwan Morgan (illness) are both questionable for this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson

Reserves
Semi Ojeleye
Javonte Green
Payton Pritchard
Robert Williams III
Tacko Fall
Jeff Teague
Carsen Edwards
Aaron Nesmith
Tremont Waters
Grant Williams

Injuries
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Marcus Smart (calf) out
Jaylen Brown (knee) game time decision

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Jazz Starters

PG: Donovan Mitchell
SG: Joe Ingles
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Royce O’Neale
C: Rudy Gobert

Jazz Reserves
Jordan Clarkson
Udoka Azubuike
Jarrell Brantley
Derrick Favors
Trent Forrest
Shaquille Harrison
Georges Niang
Miye Oni

Injuries
Elijah Hughes (ankle) questionable
Juwan Morgan (illness) questionable
Mike Conley (hamstring) out

Head Coach
Quin Snyder

Key Matchups

Kemba Walker vs Donovan Mitchell
With Conley out, Dovovan Mitchell will move up to the point guard spot. He is averaging 23.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. He is shooting 43% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to find a way to slow Mitchell and the Jazz offense down if they hope to win this game. Hopefully Kemba can get is own offense back on track in this game.

Tristan Thompson vs Rudy Gobert
Gobert is averaging 13.3 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 blocks per game. Gobert is a beast inside. He leads the league in blocks per game and is 3rd in the league in rebounding. He is shooting 61% from the field but has not attempted a 3 pointer this season. If the Celtics want to win this game, they need to somehow draw him away from the paint.

Honorable Mention
Jayson Tatum vs Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 15.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists. He is shooting 43% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. He scored a season high 32 points on 1/29 vs the Mavericks. Last season, he averaged.20.2 points per game. Jayson is going to need a big game for the Celtics to beat the Jazz.

Player to Watch
Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson is a candidate for 6th Man of the Year. He is averaging 17.6 points off the bench. He is shooting 46% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. He is scoring the most of any player off the bench. Hopefully the Celtics will get someone off the bench who can counter Clarkson’s contributions.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning each and every game. The Celtics are 9th in the league with a defensive rating of 109.8 while the Jazz are 3rd with a defensive rating of 107.0. Much of the Jazz’ success this season is due to their tough defense. The Celtics must particularly guard the 3 point line as the Jazz get 44.1% of their points on 3 pointers, which is the most in the league. They make an NBA best 17.1 threes per game and as a team make 40.7% of their 3 pointers.

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 44.0 rebounds per game while the Jazz are averaging 49.5 rebounds per game, which is tops in the league. 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. We have seen spurts in each game where they go on a run and look very good but they also have spurts when they turn the ball over and can’t make a shot. They have to be consistent and play all 48 minutes at full effort and focus.

Focus on Making Shots - The Celtics need to focus more on making shots and not look for fouls that aren’t going to be called. We saw, especially in the game against the Suns where players were looking for fouls and lost their focus when they weren’t called. Both Kemba and Tatum got technicals for complaining about the lack of a call. They have to focus more on making the shots than trying to get to the line, especially if the officiials aren’t blowing the whistle.

X-Factors
End of the Road - The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 5 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. Fatigue could set in from playing 5 games in 7 days in 5 different cities on the road. The Celtics need to keep their focus and play hard with no let up.

Injuries - The Jazz are missing their starting point guard, who leads the league in +/- stats. The Celtics are missing their best defensive player in Marcus Smart. The big X-Factor is whether Jaylen Brown plays or not. It goes without saying that the Celtics are much better with Brown on the court. Hopefully the 2 games off were enough for his knee to heal and he will be able to play in this one.

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. However, on Sunday, the refs let both teams play, with each team shooting just 12 free throws and the Celtics seemed to lose focus and try to argue for fouls when they weren’t being called. We never know what any given crew will do. The Celtics need to stay focused and not allow bad calls or lack of calls take them out of their game.