The Boston Celtics (12-10, 12-10 ATS) face the Utah Jazz (19-5, 17-7 ATS), the best team in the NBA so far behind their lethal three-point attack and suffocating defense. Utah enters as winners of four straight and 15-of-16.
Jaylen Brown (knee) is questionable after missing two straight games, which Boston split. Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist) are out. Brad Stevens said Brown felt much better on Sunday and went through a pregame workout.
Mike Conley (hamstring) is out for Utah for the second straight game. Rookie Elijah Hughes (ankle) has been out for the last three weeks and Juwan Morgan (illness) missed Sunday’s game for non-COVID reasons.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Jazz are 5.5 point favorites, with a 9-2 home record.
- Celtics vs. Jazz spread: Jazz -5.5
- Celtics vs. Jazz over-under: 220.5 points
- Celtics vs. Jazz money line: Jazz -225, Celtics +195
Life in the western conference, especially down multiple starters, is not fun, but ends soon for the Celtics when they return to Boston to play Toronto, Detroit and Washington. The Celtics have lost 7-of-11 into their west coast swing, and face the hottest team in the NBA to end it.
Only the Trailblazers take more threes per game than the Jazz (40.3%), and only the Clippers make a greater percentage (41.9%). Both are within range of breaking the Warriors’ record of 41.6% from 2016 from the modern three-point distance, 23 feet, nine inches.
All of Utah’s core rotation players, excluding Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Georges Niang, shoot better than 38% from outside. Donovan Mitchell averages 41.6% on 8.4 attempts, Bojan Bogdanovic 42.1% on 6.8, while Jordan Clarkson is the frontrunner for sixth man of the year with 17.5 points per game in 25 minutes.
Joe Ingles will replace Conley again after dishing 11 assists in a win over Indiana. His shooting rounds out a rotation of six double-figure scorers, and scoring is their second best attribute as a team.
Utah’s always-great defense is allowing the third-fewest points per game, with a top-five three point, rebounding and free throw-limiting unit.
The Jazz have held Jaylen Brown (10.1) to his lowest scoring average against any NBA team, but haven’t solved Jayson Tatum at all through six games, allowing him to shoot 45.5% from three. As a duo, they’re 2-3 against the Jazz.
The three-point shooting isn’t as scary, with Boston beating the two other high-volume teams from deep in Toronto and LAC handily. Boston (36%) protects the line at the eighth-best rate in the league.
An elite defense in Utah’s own right will present a different level of challenge than Phoenix’ stingy unit presented. Brown’s return would help and Conley’s injury hurts Utah mightily in being able to slow Kemba Walker, who has supplied steady scoring in some games for Boston when he finds a rhythm. Utah’s ability to cut him off the basket and three-pointers will force him and Tatum to hurt them from mid-range, which they can.
Boston grabs the fifth-most offensive rebounds in the league. Utah leads the NBA. Much of what the Celtics do, the Jazz do better, and if Brown doesn’t play then Utah can stack the box against Tatum, and they send opponents to the free throw line at the lowest rate in basketball.
Some silver lining for the C’s: they’ve improved their defense to 12th on this road trip after holding Phoenix to 100 points.
Utah 107, Boston 101 (10-7, 6-9 ATS)