Boston Celtics (49-22) vs. Utah Jazz (33-36) Game #72 03/18/23

The Celtics are coming off 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 game of the season for the Celtics. They are 8-2 in second night games and 3-1 when both games are on the road.

The Celtics remain in 2nd place in the East, 1.5 games behind first place Milwaukee. They are 1 game back of 3rd place Philadelphia, who have won their last 7 games, and 5 games back 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 matches.

The Jazz are 11th in the West. They are a half-game behind 10th-ranked Oklahoma City and the final game in the field. They are 2.5 games behind Golden State in 6th place 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 that game before facing Sacramento for the final game of their road trip before returning home to face the Pacers and then the Spurs. The Jazz are playing in their first home game after going 2-4 on the road. This is the first game of 4 home games for them.

Robert Williams III (hamstring), Peyton Pritchard (heel) and Danilo Gallinari (ACL) are out for this game. Al Horford is out with back stiffness and Marcus Smart is out with a bruised hip. I’m also guessing that Grant Williams and Blake Griffin will start in the front court, but that’s just a guess.

For the Jazz, Jordan Clarkson has missed the last 4 games with a sprained finger and is out for the game, although he fully participated in Friday’s practice and was originally expected to play in this game. Colin Sexton is out with a hamstring injury.

Probable Celtics starters

Derrick WhitePhoto by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Jaylen BrownPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Jayson TatumPhoto by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Grant WilliamsPhoto by Cameron Brown/NBAE via Getty Images

Blake GriffinPhoto by Lauren Leigh Bacho/NBAE via Getty Images

PG: Derrick White
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Blake Griffin

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Sam Houser
Luke Cornett
Mike Muscala

Two-way players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Peyton Pritchard (5) out
Robert Williams III (hamstring) is out
Al Horford (back) out
Marcus Smart (hip) out

Head coach
Joe Mazzula

Probable beginners in jazz

Talen Horton-TuckerPhoto by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Broken BlackPhoto by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Kelly OlynykPhoto by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Lauri MarkkanenPhoto by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Walker KesslerPhoto by Justin Ford/Getty Images

PG: Talen Horton-Tucker
SG: Broken Black
SF: Kelly Olynyk
PF: Lauri Markkanen
C: Walker Kessler

Jazz reserves
Udoka Azubuike
Chris Dunn
Simone Fontecchio
Rudy Gay
Damian Jones
Juan Toscano-Anderson

Jordan Clarkson (finger) out
Colin Sexton (hamstring) out

Two-way players
Johnny Juzang
Micah Potter

Head coach
Will Hardy

Key matches

Grant WilliamsPhoto by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Lauri MarkkanenPhoto by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Grant Williams vs. Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen is averaging 25.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He shot 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, so the Celtics will have to work hard on defense to slow him down. I’m just guessing Grant will start here.

Malcolm BrogdonPhoto by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Jordan ClarksonRob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Malcolm Brogdon vs. Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson is a former 6th Man of the Year, while Brodgon is a contender for the honor this year. Clarkson is averaging 20.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. He shot 44.4% from the field and 33.8% from beyond the arc. This will be a battle between two very good sixes.

Honorable mention
Jayson Tatum vs. Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk is averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He shot 49.8% from the field and 39.9% from beyond the arc. He will definitely try to give a little more to beat his former team. He’s a good shooter and at 7′ has a height advantage over Jayson Tatum. The Celtics need to pay close attention to Olynyk, especially on the perimeter.

Game keys
Protection – Defense is the key to victory in 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 scoring with 117.5 while the Jazz are 6th in scoring with 117.2 The Celtics especially need to guard the 3 point line as the Jazz have some very good 3 point shooters on the team and are 5 3rd with 35.8 3-point attempts per game. The Celtics need to play stifling defense if they hope to win this game.

Bounce – A lot of rebounding is effort, and when the Celtics put that effort on the boards, we see it in other areas of their game. The Celtics average 45.1 rebounds per game (7th), while the Jazz average 45.3 rebounds per game, which is 6th in the league. The Jazz are 4th with 16.2 second chance points per game, so if the Celtics want to win this game, they need to crash the boards and outscore the Jazz.

Play for 48 minutes – The Celtics can’t afford to dig themselves into a hole early in the game and they can’t afford to give up late and lose focus and miss shots and let the Jazz score at will. They also can’t afford those periods in the game where they turn the ball over and lose focus. They have to play hard from start to finish. We’ve seen spurts every game where they run and look really good, but they also have spurts when they turn the ball over and can’t make a shot. They must be consistent and play the full 48 minutes with full effort and concentration.

Focus – The Celtics have to 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 need to focus on making good shots and making them. They need to focus on making good passes and not being careless with the ball. They need to stay focused on playing strong team defense and not miss defensive assignments.

Back to Back On the Road – The Celtics are in the fifth game of a 6 game West. They need to stay focused on the game of Celtics basketball and block out all the distractions that come with playing on the road, such as traveling, playing in a different time zone, staying in hotels and hostile crowds. They are also playing in back-to-back games and the 3rd game in 4 nights. Fatigue could be a factor late in this game, especially when their depth is depleted by injuries.

Coaching – This is the first time Will Hardy and Joe Mazzula will face each other as head coaches. Both are former Celtics assistant coaches and both are first-year coaches who have performed well in their first season. Which former assistant will lead his team to victory?

Judging – Refereeing is always an x-factor. Will they let them play or will they call every tikki tac foul? Will the hosts prefer? We never know what a team is going to do. The Celtics need to stay focused and not let bad payments, or the lack of them, throw them off their game.

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