The Utah Jazz (19-5) are looking to continue their hot streak in an extremely difficult home stretch starting with the Celtics (12-10) today (Bucks Friday, Heat Saturday, 76ers Monday, followed by two games at the Clippers).
This marquee matchup was ranked by our very own Taylor Griffin as the marquee matchup of the first half of the season, a reprisal of the excellent February national game last season. (Here’s hoping the Jazz take it this time.) As one of only two games played on TNT, the Jazz will have the opportunity to really show off what they’ve been achieving over since they’ve turned over the new year. It always feels like a great matchup between up-and-coming stars Tatum and Mitchell, drafted the same year, and it’ll be exciting to see that again tonight.
The Jazz are fortunate to be catching Boston at the end of their own long Western Conference road trip, with tight wins over the Clippers and Warriors but losses to the Kings and Suns. Both teams are slightly hampered with injury to significant contributors: The Celtics have had some injury issues, with Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Marcus Smart spending significant time out in the season. As of the time of publication, Brown’s status is still unclear, Smart has been ruled out, and Walker has been a shell of himself. Walker in particular has struggled returning from a knee injury, shooting just 35.7% from the field and 30.9% from three in the 9 games since returning.
When: Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 8:00 PM MST (10:00 PM ET)
Where: Vivint Area, Salt Lake City
TV: TNT, NBCSB
Radio: KZNS/KTUB, WBZ-FM
Projected Starting Lineups
UTAH: G: Donovan Mitchell F: Joe Ingles F: Bojan Bogdanovic F: Royce O’Neale C: Rudy Gobert
BOS (predicted): G: Kemba Walker G: Jayson Tatum F: Grant Williams F: Daniel Theis C: Tristan Thompson
What to watch for
Can Donovan Mitchell keep being the focal point of the Jazz’s point of attack?
On the side of the Jazz, Mountain Mike will continue to be out with hamstring tightness, again putting increased pressure on Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles to playmake and perform. With Bogey seemingly back in the fold with his shooting, the firepower is there, but the Jazz will need Donovan to continue cooking up magic like his near-triple double against the Pacers on Sunday. He’s shown immense flashes, and the game seems to be slowing down even more for him, but to truly up his offensive game to the next level, he’ll need to try to draw more contact and continue to find the right angles to shoot and pass through.
Will discontinuity in the Celtics help or haunt them?
The Celtics have played all of two games with their primary starting lineup (Walker-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Theis). With Smart nursing a calf strain, Walker out with a knee injury, Brown missing time, and various applications of the “health and safety protocol”, all said, the Celtics have started 12 lineups this season. Most times, they’ve gone big, starting Tristan Thompson and Daniel Theis together, with Grant Williams and Semi Ojeleye earning spot starts, to mixed results, especially defensively. Yet in spite of this, they’ve still managed to cobble together a decent record in spite of 14 road games and 3 home game stopovers (home games bookended by road games on both sides).
Jaylen is having a fantastic season, to the point that outlets like the Athletic have promoted him as a potential All-Star game starter. The uncertainty over the status of such an impactful player makes Boston hard to game plan against, who have other dynamic threats like Tatum and Walker. The projected starting lineup for the Celtics managed to pull off a win against the Clippers (missing Paul George), relying heavily on both, as well as 16 points from Carsen Edwards off of the bench. Even with Walker’s struggles, Tatum has been consistently excellent (27p/7.1r/4.1a), and one random bench player always seems ready to pop off (Jeff Teague 19p/4a vs Milwaukee, Payton Pritchard 23p/8a vs Toronto, Robert Williams 11p/15r vs Toronto, Semi Ojeleye 18p/6r vs Orlando, Carsen Edwards 18p/5r vs Cleveland).
The Jazz have a bit of a history of playing down to the opponent and letting their opponent dictate their offense. While the gritty win over the Pacers and previous first half turnaround against the Hornets may point in the right direction, it wasn’t too long ago that fans were despairing the Jazz’s 4-4 record and bad losses. The Jazz need to focus on not getting bottled up, clamping down on Boston’s role players and Kemba Walker, and using their speed on the perimeter to open up great looks from distance.
Who scores the most three pointers in tonight’s game?
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