Scouting Report: Utah Jazz
Former Celtics fan favorite Al Jefferson has been Utah’s best player for the last two seasons and remains in that role this season. He is a career 16.2 PPG scorer who has also averaged 9.0 RPG over 558 career appearances.
Jefferson has been playing fantastic basketball lately and is one of the main reasons why Utah has won three of its last four games. He averaged 23.0 PPG and 13.7 RPG during those three wins, topping out at 27 points against the Suns on Saturday and 17 rebounds against the Raptors on Monday.
One thing that Jefferson has always possessed is a top-of-the-line post game. He uses his body well and can almost always get his shot off when he wants to. The Celtics have yet to face off against a player like him this season.
Utah will be missing two guards tonight, Raja Bell and Earl Watson, but neither of those players are integral pieces to this Jazz team. Both of them are on the team to serve as veteran role players who can lead by example. Bell is not with the team for undisclosed reasons and Watson is out due to right knee rehab and evaluation.
So, in short, the Jazz still have a very capable nine-man rotation.
Until Jerry Sloan resigned from the Jazz in February of 2011, this organization’s M.O. was the pick-and-roll. It became a staple of the team through John Stockton and Karl Malone and continued on with the players who have rolled through since. Nowadays, however, this team is known more for its big and talented frontline.
The Jazz have four athletic big men who can change the game with their skills. Paul Millsap, Utah’s starting power forward, is probably the team’s best all-around player. Jefferson, as we’ve already relayed, is quite the threat on the block and on the boards. Behind those two are a pair of gifted youngsters who were both selected in the high lottery. Derrick Favors was drafted third overall in the 2010 NBA Draft and is slowly coming into his own. Enes Kanter, the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, is also loaded with potential.
Utah is in pretty good shape with these four bodies rotating in their frontcourt. One thing opponents know when facing the Jazz is that they probably aren’t going to hop out of bed the next day pain-free.
At the moment, it’s exactly the same as Boston’s. Both teams are playing good enough basketball to head into tonight’s game with a two-game winning streak under their belts. The Jazz are coming off of a thrilling 140-133 triple-overtime victory over the Raptors Monday night in Toronto.
Much like the Celtics, Utah hasn’t been winning its games in impressive fashion, but it is winning nonetheless. The Jazz have won three out of their last four games and are coming into Boston feeling like they can compete at a very high level.
Their Achilles’ Heel
This Jazz team is pretty solid in all aspects of the game. There’s a reason why they’re a team no one wants to run into in the playoffs. However, they do have one deficiency: fouling.
Utah is committing an average of 23.13 fouls per game, which is the sixth-most in the league. All of those fouls are leading to an average of nearly 26 free throws a night for opponents, and opponents are cashing in by making 19 of those attempts per game. Giving up 19 free points a night isn’t going to help any team win games.