Last time the Boston Celtics matched up with the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City it was the Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell show. Both players matched each other shot for shot during a stretch in the second quarter which led to a 38 combined points between the two young stars. Mitchell ended up with a game high 37 points, but Tatum had 33 points along with 11 rebounds resulting in his team getting the win. On Friday night at the TD Garden the Celtics will go up against the Utah Jazz again where Tatum will look to go for 30+ points for the sixth consecutive game and the Celtics will look to sweep the season series. Here are the five keys for the Celtics as they look to get back into the win column at home.
1. Limit Rudy Gobert on the glass
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is the reigning back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s not only known for his defense. Gobert currently averages 14 rebounds per game, which is good for 3rd in the NBA. The first-time all-star also averages a solid 3.5 offensive rebounds per game for the Jazz. Last time the Celtics faced the Jazz Gobert was held to only 9 rebounds, which is 5 below his average. Celtics big man Daniel Theis won the battle with Gobert last time out as his +/- was +13 compared to Gobert’s +/- of -13. The Celtics need Theis to bring the same energy Friday night.
2. Defend the three-point line
In the last matchup the Celtics not only shot the three well at 11-26, which is good for 42%, but they also defended it extremely well. The Jazz shot 12-40 from three, which is only 30%. The key shooters on the Jazz really struggled to get going, including Bojan Bogdanovic and Donovan Mitchell who shot a combined 2-14 from three. Bogdanovic is shooting 41% from three while Mitchell shoots 36%, so defending the three-point line will be key for the Celtics if they want to secure a win.
3. Feed Jayson Tatum
We all know Jayson Tatum has been on a tear recently. He’s scored 30+ points in five consecutive games and is doing it with ease. The first-time all-star scored 33 points last time against the Jazz and shot an efficient 13-20, including 3-5 from three. Tatum is putting up superstar numbers this season with an average of 23.6 points per game. The Celtics need to feed Tatum early and often Friday night, so he finds a rhythm and gets the Boston crowd into it.
4. Limit turnovers
In Utah the Celtics really protected the basketball only giving up 8 turnovers. Now the Jazz only turned it over 9 times, but the Celtics only turning it over 8 times helped their defense tremendously. By only turning it over 8 times, the Celtics didn’t give away easy fast break baskets to players like Donovan Mitchell. They were able to get back and set up their defense and forced the Jazz to beat them that way. This season Boston is ranked 8th in turnovers per game, but are ranked 5th in turnovers per game when playing at home. The Celtics protecting the ball at home and limiting the Jazz’s easy fast break baskets will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
5. Get balanced scoring
The Celtics get most of their scoring production from their five starters. On Friday night two of those starters will not be available. Jaylen Brown is out for at least a week with a hamstring injury and Gordon Hayward is doubtful with a knee contusion. In the last matchup with the Jazz the Celtics starters all scored over 12 points. Kemba Walker was not available for that game, so he will slide in for one of the two injured starters and could take on more of a scoring load with the Celtics being banged up. The four obvious starters for Friday nights game will be Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Daniel Theis. The fifth starter is a question mark and could either be Semi Ojeleye or Grant Williams. Semi Ojeleye might get the nod due to his defensive ability and his outstanding performance in Cleveland, where he scored a career high 22 points. Either way the Celtics will need players to step up and produce a balanced scoring attack like they had in Utah.
The Celtics will look to end their mini two game home losing streak when they face the Jazz on Friday night in Boston. The Celtics are back home after their 112-106 win in Cleveland on Wednesday night, while the Jazz look to extend their win streak to 4 games.
Photo: (Alex Goodlett-Getty Images)
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