Boston Celtics (49-22) at Utah Jazz (33-36) Game #72 3/18/23
The Celtics come off of a Friday night game against the Trail Blazers to face the Utah Jazz. This is the first of 2 games this season between these two teams. They will meet again in Boston on March 31. These two teams tied the series 1-1 last season with each team winning on their home court. This is the 11th back to back set of the season for the Celtics. They are 8-2 on the second night of back to back games and 3-1 when the games are both on the road.
The Celtics remain in 2nd place in the East, 1.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. They are 1 game ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, who have won their last 7 games, and 5 games ahead of 4th place Cleveland. They are 23-13 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 19-6 against Western Conference opponents. They have won their last 2 games.
The Jazz are 11th in the West. They are half a game behind 10th place Oklahoma City and the final play in spot. They are 2.5 games behind 6th place Golden State and the final guaranteed playoff spot. They are 20-13 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 12-14 against Eastern Conference opponents. They lost their last game.
The Celtics are playing in the 5th game of a 6 game road trip. They will have two days off after this game before facing Sacramento for the final game of their road trip before heading home to face the Pacers and then the Spurs. The Jazz are playing in the first home game after a 2-4 road trip. This is the first game of a 4 game home stand for them.
Robert Williams III (hamstring), Payton Pritchard (heel) and Danilo Gallinari (ACL) are all out for this game. Al Horford is out with back stiffness and Marcus Smart is out with a hip bruise. I’m also guessing that Grant Williams and Blake Griffin will start in the front court but that is just a guess.
For the Jazz, Jordan Clarkson has missed the last 4 games with a sprained finger and is ruled out for the game, even though he participated fully in Friday’s practice and was originally expected to play in this game. Collin Sexton is out with a hamstring injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Derrick White
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Blake Griffin
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Payton Pritchard (heel) out
Robert Williams III (hamstring) out
Al Horford (back) out
Marcus Smart (hip) out
Probable Jazz Starters
PG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SG: Ochai Agbaji
SF: Kelly Olynyk
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: Walker Kessler
Jordan Clarkson (finger) out
Collin Sexton (hamstring) out
Two Way Players
Grant Williams vs Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen is averaging 25.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He is shooting 50.5% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. He is a very good shooter and will have a height advantage over his counterpart, and so the Celtics are going to have to work hard on defense to slow him down. I’m just guessing that Grant will start here.
Malcolm Brogdon vs Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson is a former 6th man of the year while Brodgon is a candidate for the honor this year. Clarkson is averaging 20.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. He is shooting 44.4% from the field and 33.8% from beyond the arc. This will be a battle between two very good 6th men.
Jayson Tatum vs Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk is averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He is shooting 49.8% from the field and 39.9% from beyond the arc. He will definitely look to give a little extra to beat his former team. He is a good shooter and at 7’, he has a height advantage over Jayson Tatum. The Celtics need to pay special attention to Olynyk, especially on 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 111.1 while the Jazz are 24th with a defensive rating of 115.7. The Celtics are 4th in points with 117.5 while the Jazz are 6th in points with 117.2 The Celtics must particularly guard the 3 point line as the Jazz have some very good 3 point shooters on the team and they are 5th with 35.8 3 pointers attempted per game. The Celtics must play smothering defense if they hope to get a win 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 45.1 rebounds per game (7th) while the Jazz are averaging 45.3 rebounds per game, which is 6th in the league. The Jazz are 4th with 16.2 second chance points per game and so if the Celtics 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 – The Celtics must come into the game focused on playing the right way as a team. They need to focus on moving the ball and moving without the ball as they had just 19 assists on Monday. They have to focus on taking good shots and making them. They have to focus on making good passes and not get sloppy handling the ball. They have to stay focused on playing tough team defense and not miss defensive assignments.
Back to Back On the Road – The Celtics are playing in the fifth game of a 6 game Western road trip. They have to stay focused on playing Celtics basketball and block out all the distractions that come from playing on the road like travel, playing in a different time zone, staying in hotels and a hostile crowd. They are also playing in back to back games and in the 3rd game in 4 nights. Fatigue may be a factor down the stretch in this game, especially with their depth being depleted by injuries.
Coaching – This is the first 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 first year coaches who have done well in their first season. Which former assistant will lead their team to the win?
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 them out of their game.