Watch It! - Celtics at Jazz
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz meet at 9 p.m. tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.
Saturday night’s loss to the Kings didn’t come as much of a surprise to Celtics fans. Boston was playing in the second night of a back-to-back without three of its starters and had just nine available players.
Fortunately for the Celtics, they’ll get a boost in the starting lineup tonight. Rajon Rondo will return after missing Saturday night’s game due to rest. The point guard is playing very good basketball this month and carries February averages of 13.7 PPG, 9.7 APG and 6.3 RPG into tonight’s game.
The return of Rondo will certainly provide a much-needed boost to the starting lineup despite the fact that Boston will be playing without the services of Jared Sullinger (concussion) and Avery Bradley (ankle)
Not the Early-Season Jazz
The first matchup of the season between these two teams, which the Celtics won 97-87, was played in early November. Boston’s win came against a Utah team that was in the midst of an underwhelming first month of the season. The Jazz opened up their season by losing 15 of their first 18 games and they went just 3-14 in the month of November.
Utah’s level of play has changed dramatically since then. After starting out the season with a 3-15 record, the Jazz have gone on to record a 16-21 record over their last 37 games. That stretch includes victories over Miami, Oklahoma City and Houston, all of which are considered to be title contenders.
Back in November the Jazz could be taken lightly. That is not the case anymore.
First Look at Burke
Utah’s turnaround since November has coincided with the emergence of rookie point guard Trey Burke. Burke, whom the Jazz chose with the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, has been a major contributor since missing the first 12 games of the season.
Burke began his rookie season on Nov. 20 and has gone on to average 12.8 points per game, 5.6 assists per game and 3.1 rebounds per game. He has recorded eight 20-point games, maxing out with a 30-point performance against the Magic on Dec. 18.
Containing Burke will be a much more difficult task than containing veteran Jamaal Tinsley, who started at point guard for Utah when these teams met in November. Burke is a speedy point guard who can create offense for both himself and his teammates.
Turn Effort into a Win
No one can question the effort the Celtics have put forth on this trip. They have played their tails off during their three losses, which have all come down to the final minutes. They almost took down the Kings, who have won five of their last nine games, on Saturday night despite having only nine players available.
Effort is great, but the Celtics want wins. There are no moral victories in Boston regardless of how competitive the team is. Tonight is an opportunity for the Celtics to give another great effort and grab a win to salvage this four-game road trip. Doing so would not only send them home on a high note, but it would also set them up nicely for their upcoming five-game homestand.
Utah’s Size Advantage
While most NBA teams have built their team from the perimeter to the interior, the Jazz have taken a different approach. They are building around what may be the most talented duo of frontcourt players in the NBA who are still on their rookie deals.
Derrick Favors, 22, and Enes Kanter, 21, have proven to be legitimate forces in the paint. Both players are at least 6-foot-10 and have a lot of bulk on their bodies.
Utah has watched each player put together his best season as a pro this year. Favors is averaging 12.9 PPG and 9.0 RPG and Kanter is averaging 12.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG. Kanter is coming off of back-to-back 25-point games in which he started at center in place of the injured Favors.
It is uncertain at this point as to whether the Jazz will have both players available tonight. Kanter is listed as the team’s starting center, while Favors, who has been out since Feb. 12 with a right hip strain, is listed as a game-time decision. Kanter will give the Jazz a size advantage tonight over a Celtics team that will be without Sullinger and Vitor Faverani. That advantage will become dramatic if Favors is on the floor as well.