NBA Game Preview: Boston Celtics Take on Exhausted Utah Jazz


October 1, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap (24, left) poses with head coach Tyrone Corbin and center Al Jefferson (25) during media day at the Zions Bank Basketball Center. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

Utah received a night off last night after playing a triple over time thriller against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night.  One day just might not be enough.  Two Jazz players played more than a full game in that win over the Raptors, as Jefferson finished with 49 minutes and point guard Mo Williams logged 50.  Derrick Favors saw 45 minutes and Paul Millsap saw 44.  Expect a tired Jazz team tonight.

In that win, the Jazz put up 140 points, as Millsap scored a team-high 34, and six other Jazz players reached double figures.  The job of slowing Millsap will fall into the hands of Kevin Garnett tonight, while he’ll also likely see some time covering former Celtics center Al Jefferson.  Both Millsap and Jefferson are unrestricted free agents after this season, so they are playing for contracts.  That motivation has been enough to keep the Jazz relevant, and they made the eighth seed last year in the tough Western Conference.

Still, for as good as the Jazz are and can be, this is a game that the Celtics should win.  Boston has now won four of their last five with the lone loss coming to Philadelphia.  Wins over Milwaukee and Chicago on Saturday and Monday, respectively, have set the tone for the C’s as they look to improve to 5-3 on the season tonight.

If they can manage to do so, it will likely be largely in part due to the impressive play of point guard Rajon Rondo.  Rondo has become a scorer without becoming a shoot-first point guard by any stretch of the imagination.  This season, he’s averaging 19.7 points per game and 13 assists per game, while playing over 40 minutes per night.

The increased workload was to be expected after the C’s decided not to sign a veteran true point to back Rondo up.  Jason Terry and Courtney Lee have shared ball handling duties at time, but Rondo just hasn’t sat much.  Leandro Barbosa is seeing just 11 minutes per night.  Indeed, all the work at the point has been and will be done by Rajon Rondo.

Rondo, while we’re on the topic, should have no problem abusing Mo Williams tonight.  Williams has never been even an average defender and Rondo is arguably the quickest player in the NBA.

If Rondo can take full advantage of his speed against Williams, it should open up the court for Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, the other four C’s averaging double-figure scoring.

Expect the Jazz to come out slugging after their marathon game Monday, but if Boston isn’t quick to take advantage of that, it could be the kind of game that has the potential to turn into a slugfest.  Both teams have a lot of toughness on the interior.

Kevin Garnett won’t back down from the talented tandem of Millsap and Jefferson, and both of those Jazz players realize the importance of tonight’s game—and indeed the entire rest of the season—as they audition for teams and hope that they are shown the money this summer.