Update: Reports out of Utah have Mehmet Okur playing, while Kirilenko will sit out due to a calf energy. 1 out of 2 ain’t bad, C’s will take it -B Robb
Opposing viewpoint: Salt City Hoops
Boston: 107.3 points/100 possessions (15th)
Utah: 110.9 points/100 possessions (6th)
Boston: 102.2 points allowed/100 possessions (1st)
Utah: 104.8 points allowed/100 possessions (9th)
Probable Utah Starters:
Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews, C.J. Miles, Kyrylo Fesenko/Paul Millsap
Utah: DOUBTFUL: Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko
Thumbnail: Boston comes into Utah to finish up a three game road trip that included two tough ones in Texas. Despite their early season dominance, it could be argued that the Celtics are really playing their best basketball of the season. This one will not be easy for the Celtics, but the Green may be catching Utah at just the right time. The Jazz are three and three in their last six games without a win against an over.500 team. The Jazz are also without two of their more versatile and matchup-nightmare players in Okur and Kirilenko.
WHAT THE JAZZ DO WELL
Field Goal Percentage
The Jazz lead the league in filed goal percentage at 49%. Despite the Jazz having some very good players on their team, I’d venture to guess this stat is more a byproduct of shot selection than anything else. Their star players are more known for playing smart and getting to the line than lighting it up. Which leads me to my next point….
Free Throw Shooting
The Jazz are second in the league in free throw attempts. This is largely due to the hard-nose player of any Jerry Sloan coached team- and the fact that Carlos “Bruiser” is a bit undersized in statue but over-sized in grit and heart. This guy gets in the trenches an gets it done, which usually leads to his opponents bouncing off of him as he powers his way to the tin.
Deron Williams is also a very effective slasher and finisher. The bottom line is that their opponents have to put them at the line or suffer the consequences.
This again, most likely stems from their smarts than their athleticism. I don’t watch the Jazz enough to say definitively, but if you were to put a gun to my head, I’d have to say the Jazz get more steals by wisely playing passing lanes than having the quicker hands.
WHAT THE JAZZ DO POORLY AVERAGE-LY
Free Throw Percentage
On paper, this is the Jazz’ Achilles heel. Especially for a team that gets to the line as often as the Jazz do. The Jazz are 24th in the league in free throw percentage at 74%. This bodes well for the Green given that if the game turns into a “grind it out slug-fest,” the Celtics are well-equipped to put the Jazz away at the line.
Three Point Percentage
The Jazz hover around the league average at three point percentage- which only means that they can knock them down when called upon to do so, but won’t kill you from deep. While Kyle Korver is killing it from three this season (56%), he has only attempted 86 of them, so he won’t kill the Celtics. Meanwhile, C.J. Miles appears to be chucking, with the third most attempts on the team and only shooting 34%.
WHAT WE WANT TO “C” TONIGHT
The continuation of Paul Pierce’s dominance.
Pierce will most likely be guarded by Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Brewer tonight. Both Brewer and Matthews are nice players, but neither of them are savvy enough to guard Pierce while he’s this hot. If Pierce has a bad game, it’s on him- unless Kirilenko somehow gets healthy and plays exclusive ball denial on him.
Rondo Hangin’ Tough
Rondo can match Williams’ quickness, but he is no match for his size. If Williams posts Rondo up, expect double-teams. The Celtics will need to have quick rotations if they hope to have a chance against this mismatch.
Another preview I do, and another team that favors PT for Williams. Boozer is a big dude and the Duke on Duke storyline writes itself. Fesenko (at least from the last time I saw him) seems to be on the Michael Sweetney diet and rivaling Aaron Gray for biggest, whitest blob on a basketball court.
Without Okur to spread the floor and Kirilenko to be the mismatch nightmare he is, I don’t really see the Jazz coming out on top. Call it the over-confidence brewing but the Celtics are playing really well and the bench is due to have big game- or at least a solid game. The Jazz will definitely keep it close, but the Celtics will eventually come out on top.
Celtics 105, Jazz 98