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Utah Jazz (16-19) at Boston Celtics (26-7) Game #34 1/5/24

The Celtics return home for one game to host Kelly Olynyk and the Utah Jazz.

Utah Jazz (114) Vs. Boston Celtics (122) At TD Garden Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Celtics return home from a two game road trip to face the Utah Jazz. This is the first of 2 games between these two teams this season. They will meet for the second time in Boston on March 12. The Celtics tied the series with the Jazz 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court. the Celtics are 60-46 all overall all time against the Jazz. They are 38-15 in games played in Boston.

The Celtics remain in first place in the East. They are 2 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 3 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 6.5 games ahead of 4th place Miami and 7 games ahead of 5th place Indiana. The Celtics are 16-0 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 5-3 against Western Conference opponents. They had won 6 in a row before losing their last game against the Thunder.

The Jazz are in 12th place in the West. They are 1 game behind the !0th place Lakers and the final play-in spot. They are 5 games behind 6th place New Orleans, and the final guaranteed playoff spot. They are 4.5 games ahead of the 13th place Memphis Grizzlies. They are 5-14 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 6-4 against Eastern Conference teams and they have won their last 3 games.

The Celtics are playing their only home game between two 2 game road trips. They just returned from a Western road trim where they beat the Spurs but lost to the Thunder. The Celtics are playing in the first of back to back games and will Indiana on Saturday. They will play in Indiana once again on Monday. This is the first of 5 games in 7 days to begin a tough stretch for the Celtics.

The Jazz are coming off a of a 3 game home stand where they played Miami, Dallas and Detroit They won all three of those games and so have some momentum coming into this game. This is the first game of a tough 3 game road trip for the Jazz. They will play at Philadelphia and Milwaukee before heading home for a 6 game home stand.

The Celtics have just Al Horford on the injury list as questionable for rest. Since the Celtics are playing back to back games, they will rest him in either this game or on Saturday against the Pacers. It’s more likely they will rest him in this game as the Pacers are the tougher matchup.

Probable Celtics Starters

PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Kristaps Porzingis

Celtics Reserves
Delano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh
Luke Kornet
Al Horford

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Drew Peterson
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
Al Horford (rest) questionable

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Jazz Starters

PG: Collin Sexton
SG: Kris Dunn
SF: Simone Fontecchio
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: John Collins

Jazz Reserves
Ochai Agbaji
Jordan Clarkson
Keyonte George
Taylor Hendricks
Talen Horton-Tucker
Walker Kessler
Kelly Olynyk
Luka Samanic
Brice Sensabaugh
Omer Yurtseven

Two Way Players
Josh Christopher
johnny Juzang
Micah Potter

Injuries/Out
None

Head Coach
Will Hardy

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen is averaging 25.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 49.0% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc. Markkanen is the Jazz’ best player and slowing him down will be key to getting a win.

Jrue Holiday vs Collin Sexton
Sexton is averaging 15.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc. Holiday struggled in the game against the Thunder and sat out the end of the game in favor of Payton Pritchard. Hopefully Jrue comes out ready to have a big game in this one.

Honorable Mention
Sam Hauser vs Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson is a former 6th Man of the Year (2021) and still plays very well off the bench for the Jazz. He is averaging 17.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. He is shooting 41.1% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the arc. He is coming off a 46 point game against the Pistons.

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 110.9 while the Jazz are 24th with a defensive rating of 117.3. The Celtics are 5th in points per game with 120.8 while the Jazz are 16th with 114.9 points per game. The Jazz have some very good 3 point shooters on the team and they are 9th with 37.5 three pointers attempted per game so the Celtics need to play good perimeter defense. But they also must defend in the paint as the Jazz are 8th with 52.8 points in the paint per game. The Celtics must continue to make defense a priority in 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 47.3 rebounds per game (1st) while the Jazz are averaging 46.1 rebounds per game, which is 4th in the league. The Jazz are 1st with 17.0 second chance points per game and the Celtics must have every player fight for rebounds to limit those 2nd chance points. If the Celtics want to win this game they need to crash the boards and out-rebound the Jazz.

Play Hard 48 Minutes - Against the Thunder, the Celtics out played them in the first half and in the 4th quarter but were undone by a 40-25 third quarter. They came out sloppy and sluggish to start the second half and were unable to recover. The Celtics have to play hard for every one of the 48 minutes of the game. They can’t afford 3rd quarter let downs or to let up for any period of time.

Move the Ball - The Celtics have to play the right way and that means move the ball and make the extra pass to get the best shot available. The Celtics play best when the ball is moving and players are moving without the ball to get to their spots. When the ball slows down and players over dribble and try to do too much then they tend to struggle.

X-Factors
Home Court Advantage - The Celtics are home once again and they need to take pride in that perfect home record and play hard to keep it perfect. They have the crowd behind them and are on their own court. The Jazz are on the road for the first of 3 games in the East. They have a hostile crowd and an unfamiliar court along with the distractions of travel.

Coaching - This is the third time that Will Hardy and Joe Mazzulla will be matched up against each other as head coaches. Both are former Celtics assistant coaches and both are second year head coaches who have done well in their first season. Will Hardy got the win in the first game by 1 point while Joe Mazzulla got the win in the second game by 8 points. Which former Celtics’ assistant will lead their team to the win in this one?

Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Will they let them play or will they call every ticky tack foul? Will they favor the home team? 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 away their focus on playing the game.

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