The Celtics have a stop at home between road games as they host the Utah Jazz, who are on their second game of a 5 game road trip. They lost the first game on Sunday 131-119 to the Warriors. The Jazz won the first game between these two teams 122-108 in Utah on February 9.
The Jazz have lost 3 of their last 4 games and are looking to get back on track on this Eastern road trip. These two teams split the series 1-1 last season with each team winning at home. The Celtics are 58-43 all time against the Jazz and they are 36-14 in Boston. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games and will travel to Cleveland for a Wednesday game.
The Jazz are 1st in the West and in the league. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 12-8 on the road. They are 2.5 games ahead of 2nd place Phoenix. They are 15-4 vs the East. The Celtics are 5th in the East and 6.5 games behind 2st place Philadelphia. They are half a game behind Miami. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 12-5 at home. They are 6-7 vs the West.
The Jazz have been lucky this season and have used just 3 different starting lineups this season. This current lineup has started 29 games. Udoka Azubuike (ankle) is the only player out for the Jazz. The Celtics haven’t been as lucky and have started 17 different lineups. If they start Walker, Smart, Brown, Tatum, and Theis, it will just be their 3rd game together. Romeo Langford (covid) and Tristan Thompson (covid) are out for the Celtics.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (covid) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Probable Jazz Starters
PG: Mike Conley
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Bojan Bodganovic
PF: Royce O’Neale
C: Rudy Gobert
Udoka Azubuike (ankle) out
Marcus Smart vs Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell is averaging 24.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. He is shooting 42% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. In the first game in Utah, Mitchell put up 36 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks. The Celtics must guard him better in this game.
Kemba Walker vs Mike Conley
Conley is averaging 16.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists. He is shooting 45% from the field and 43% on three pointers. The Celtics have to stay with him and not allow him to get hot from the outside. He missed the game in Utah and so this is the first time this season that the Celtics will have to face him.
Daniel Theis vs Rudy Gobert
Gobert is averaging 14.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He is 2nd in the league in both rebounds and blocks. He is shooting 64% from the field but does not normally shoot 3’s. Brad Stevens has said that he doesn’t plan to start the dual center lineup again. I’m guessing that he will start Theis at center, especially since Thompson is out.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning each and every game. The Celtics are 17th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.8 while the Jazz are 3rd with a defensive rating of 108.0. 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 score a lot of their points from the perimeter. However, the Celtics also have to defend the paint because they also are a threat to drive and Gobert is very effective around the hoop.
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 48 rebounds per game, which is 2nd in the league. The Jazz are also 7th in the league with 14 second chance points per game. If the Celtics want to win this game they need to crash the boards and beat the Jazz to the rebounds.
Play 48 Minutes -The Celtics can’t afford to dig a hole at the beginning of the game and they can’t let up and lose focus at the end of the game either because the Jazz are a very dangerous team. They also can’t afford those periods in the game where they turn the ball over and can’t score. The Celtics have to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Play as a Team - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. When they do that, they play very well. When they play hero ball and over dribble and look for their own shot first, it usually ends in a loss. They must trust each other and move the ball and play as a team.
BenchPlay - The Jazz have some players off their bench that can put up big numbers and do so on a regular basis. Joe Ingles started the game in Utah and put up 24 points, 3 rebounds and 6 assists. He is shooting 52% from the field and 46% from beyond the arc. Jordan Clarkson is averaging 17.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals off the bench and is shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to get some production off the bench on both ends of the court.
Home vs Road - The Celtics are at home where they have lost just 5 games. The Jazz are on the road where they have lost 4 of their last 6 games. When the Celtics lost to the Jazz in Utah, they were on the final game of a 5 game road trip and pretty much worn out. The Jazz are on just the 2nd of a 5 game road trip but hopefully being at home will give the Celtics an advantage.
Officiating - Officiating can always be an x-factor. Will they let them play or will they call every ticky tack foul? Will they favor the home team or call it even? We never know what any given crew will do. The Celtics need to stay focused and not allow bad calls or lack of calls to take them out of their game.