Game Preview: Jazz at Celtics
BOSTON – There aren’t many similarities between the Boston Celtics (4-3) and the Utah Jazz (4-4), which meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight in TD Garden. This year, however, the two franchises have experienced similar starts to their respective seasons.
Neither team met expectations out of the gates thanks to offseason makeovers. However, both teams have righted their ships and are seeking their third consecutive win tonight.
Boston sputtered in its first two games of the season and suffered losses to Miami and Milwaukee. Panic ruffled through the city, but Doc Rivers preached patience as his bevy of new players continued to acquaint themselves with one another.
Less than two weeks have passed since that 0-2 start but the Celtics have already turned things around. They have quietly won four of their last five games, including an impressive sweep of a two-game road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago.
Utah has experienced a similar path as it has developed its team. The Jazz also made several key offseason moves. They acquired two new starters and one key reserve. Mo Williams is now the team’s starting point guard and longtime Hawks player Marvin Williams now holds down the Jazz’s starting small forward slot. Additionally, Randy Foye is coming off of the bench and is one of six Utah players averaging at least 10.8 PPG.
The Jazz won their season opener against the Dallas Mavericks but then dropped their next three games in a span of just four days. They have since bounced back thanks in large part to strong doses of great defense and former Celtic Al Jefferson. Utah has won three out of its last four games, including a 95-86 victory over the Lakers in which Los Angeles shot just 33.8 percent from the field. Jefferson averaged 23.0 PPG and 13.7 RPG during the three victories.
You wouldn’t put these two teams in the same sentence very often, but they should be tonight, and not only because they’re playing each other. Both teams believe they’ve turned things around, but only one will head out of the Garden with its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Utah left Toronto with a hangover Monday night. The Jazz and Raptors played a ridiculous triple-overtime game in which five Jazz players logged at least 36:40 of playing time. Utah won the marathon contest 140-133.
There’s no way the Jazz players aren’t feeling a little winded today. Their three-hour and 13-minute game took exactly 61 more minutes to complete than Boston’s victory over the Bulls in Chicago. Mo Williams (50 minutes), Jefferson (49 minutes) Derrick Favors (45 minutes) and Paul Millsap (44 minutes) won’t be playing on fresh legs tonight, that’s for sure.
A Potential Darko Game
The Celtics have yet to take on a team this season that has a large frontline. The Bulls, whom Boston defeated Monday night, do have several talented power forwards and centers, but none of them are large, bulky bodies.
Utah is in a different category. The Jazz send out three large centers in Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. All of those players are rebounding forces, as they alone combine for 22.1 RPG.
Boston hasn’t gone big very often this season. The team’s primary rotation has featured Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger as the backup centers. Tonight, however, it might be time to call Darko Milicic’s name for his first extended minutes of the season. The 7-foot center has played only five minutes this season, but he would provide some needed bulk against Utah’s frontline.
Get on Track at Home
TD Garden is supposed to be where the Celtics dominate their opponents. Their record at home, however, is just 1-2 through the first three home games of the season.
Boston is coming off of two fantastic wins on the road that have put quite a bit of momentum on its side. The last thing the C’s want to do is squander that momentum with a loss at home. With six of their final nine games in November being played in front of their home crowd, the Celtics need to get on track at TD Garden.