Celtics host Jazz with a division tie once again on the line

Utah Jazz (27-23) at Boston Celtics (27-22)
Wednesday, March 28
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #50, Home Game #26
Radio:  WEEI, KFNZ
TD Garden 
Referees:  Eddie F. Rush,  Bennie Adams,  James Williams 
This is the first and only game between these two teams this season.  Both teams are playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights.  The Celtics won their last two games and the Jazz are 1-1 in their last 2 on the road.  They went to a 4th overtime before losing to the Hawks and then went on to beat the Nets the next night.  Needless to say, the Jazz are going to be a tough foe.  Only 3 teams have won 12 or more games since the All Star break: Celtics, Jazz and Bulls.   The Jazz is 36-47 all-time against the Celtics and 11-30 on the road … Utah’s last win in Boston came on 3/14/08, when the Jazz won 110-92.

The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Jazz are 8-2 in their last 10.  The Celtics are 17-8 at home while the Jazz have struggled a bit on the road, winning 8 and losing 17.   Both teams are in a fight for playoff seeding.  The Celtics remain in 7th in the East.  They tied Philly for the division lead, but with Philly's win over the Cavs on Tuesday, they are back up by half a game. The Celtics must win this one to once again tie for the lead.  They are 2 games behind Atlanta for 6th after the Hawks lost to the Bucks on Tuesday and 2.5 games ahead of New York for 8th.  The Jazz are also in 7th in a very tight Western conference.  They are tied with Houston who are in the 8th spot by virtue of the Jazz owning the tie breaker.  They are also just half a game behind Memphis for the 6th spot.

The Celtics are still short handed with Mickael Pietrus still out and Ray Allen listed as day to day and with Ryan Hollins still very much a work in progress.  Ray Allen did participate in the morning shoot around but is still listed as a game time decision for tonight's game.   Paul Pierce took it on himself to pick up the slack in their win over the Bobcats but there is just so much the Captain can do.  The Celtics need every player to pick up their games with playoff seeding and possibly, even the playoffs, in the balance.

This will be a classic offense vs defense matchup.  I've heard it said that a good offense will beat a good defense but the Celtics have to prove it's the opposite.  The Jazz are 6th in the league in scoring while the Celtics are ranked 26th.  The Celtics on the other hand are ranked 3rd in points allowed (90.6) and field goal percentage allowed (.424).  The Celtics must make defense a priority. 

Probable Starters

Probable Starters
PG:   Rajon Rondo 12.6 PPG  10.7 APG 1.8 SPG
SG:   Ray Allen 14.6 PPG  2.5 APG  .459 3P%
SF:    Paul Pierce 18.9 PPG  5.1 RPG  4.9 APG
PF:    Brandon Bass 13.3 PPG  6.5 RPG  1.1 BPG
C:     Kevin Garnett 15.4 PPG  8.1 RPG  1.1 BPG

Celtics Reserves

Marquis Daniels
Greg Stiemsma
Sasha Pavlovic
Ryan Hollins
Keyon Dooling
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Avery Bradley

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Mickael Pietrus (concussion) doubtful
Ray Allen (ankle) day to day
Greg Stiemsma (feet, thumb) probable 

Probable Starters
PG   Devin Harris  10.3 PPG  4.9 APG   1.0 SPG
SG:  Gordon Hayward    10.4 PPG  3.1 APG  .282 3P%
SF  CJ Miles   9.3 PPG  2.1 RPG   1.2 APG
PF  Paul Millsap  16.2 PPG   9.0 RPG  0.8 BPG
C   Al Jefferson   19.4  PPG  9.3 RPG  1.6 BPG

Jazz Reserves
Earl Watson
Alec Burks
Derrick Favors
DeMarre Carroll
Enes Kanter
Jamaal Tinsley
Jeremy Evans

Raja Bell (Adductor)  doubtful
Josh Howard  (knee)  out

Key Matchups
Brandon Bass vs Paul Millsap
Millsap is a tough matchup and is having a very good year.  Bass will need to up his defense to keep Millsap's scoring down and he will need to box out as Millsap is a danger around the hoop.

Kevin Garnett vs Al Jefferson
KG will be matched up against former Celtic Big Al Jefferson, who was a key member of the trade that brought KG to Boston.   Big Al is having an impressive year and KG will have his hands full defensively.  Hopefully Big Al is still struggling on the defensive end and will allow KG to get his points.  

Honorable Mention
Paul Pierce vs CJ Miles
Paul Pierce is coming off a season high in his last game and was very aggressive in going to the hoop.  It would be great if he could do that again as he should have an advantage in this matchup.

Keys to the Game
Defense  As stated above, the Celtics will need to make defense a priority in this game as the Jazz have some very good scorers and the Celtics will have trouble winning a shoot out between them.  The Celtics allowed way too many easy baskets for the Bobcats who are usually not that much of a scoring threat.  They have to recommit to defense and get stops in this game.

Rebound The Celtics have been doing better on the boards but they need to continue to be aggressive in crashing the boards as a team.  Utah is a good rebounding team, ranked 4th, pulling down 43.5 rebounds per game.  The Celtics are still ranked last with only 38.3 rebounds per game.   They need to continue to put out extra  effort on the boards to limit second chance points and fast breaks for the Jazz.

Bench The Jazz has a very strong bench and the Celtics bench not so much.  The Jazz got 36 points off their bench vs New Jersey in their last game while the Celtics got just 9 points from their reserves in their last game.  Injuries have depleted the Celtics reserves and they will need to play well in this game in order for the game not to get out of control while the starters rest.   The bench will be the difference between a close game and a blowout and possibly between a win and a loss.

Be Aggressive   The Celtics were the more aggressive team for much of the game vs the Bobcats and they got to the line more and they got the win.    Sometimes the Celtics play passive and when they do, they always struggle and always seem to pick up a lot more fouls. I loved seeing them going to the basket vs the Bobcats instead of settling for jumpers and it would be nice to see them do that again in this game.   The Celtics must be aggressive and go strong to the basket, go after loose balls and crash the boards.

Take Care of the Ball- The Jazz are ranked 7th in the league at getting steals with 8.44 a game.   The Celtics go through those lulls in every game where they seem to get sloppy with the ball and make bad passes and they seem to lose focus.  The Jazz will make them pay if they don't stay focused and take care of the basketball.

Official Report
Eddie F Rush
In addition to being a member of the NBA officiating staff for the past 24 seasons, Eddie F. Rush has also been a FIBA official for 12 years. While with the NBA, he has officiated 1,508 regular season and 166 playoff games, including 11 NBA
Finals games. Rush was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1994 Japan Games in Yokohama, and the 2000 and 2008 NBA All-Star Games. He also officiated in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Rush has four years officiating experience in the CBA, where he worked playoff and finals games. Prior to that, he spent four years officiating at the collegiate level, and four years at the high school level. Eddie F. Rush officiated the last game of the NBA Finals for five seasons in a row (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009). He was the least liked ref by Cavs fans when they still had LeBron because he was the only ref that called more losses for them than wins. He is also one of Tommy Heinsohn's least favorite refs and there are several rants on file of Tommy complaining about Rush's ineptness. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Rush on the court. In the first game this season, the Pacers shot 18 free throws to 24 for the Celtics and the officiating was bad on both sides. The second game was the loss to Chicago and the refs allowed the Celtics to get hacked and fouled all night with no calls. The Bulls shot 28 free throws to 18 for the Celtics. The Bulls shot 9 free throws before the Celtics shot 1. The win was against Portland where the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 15 for the Blazers and the refs pretty much let them play. The Jazz are 2-0 this season and 8-2 in their last 10 with Rush. Adams isn't particularly friendly to the home team with a home W/L record this season of 19-14.

Bennie Adams
A former math instructor at Southern University, Adams joined the NBA officiating staff 17 seasons ago, and since then has officiated 904 regular season and four playoff games. In addition, he has been a USA Basketball official since 1995. Adams has also officiated the 2008 NBA Europe Live Tour and the 2002 NBA All Star Rookie Challenge. Adams officiated in the CBA for three years, and worked the 1996 CBA Finals. He also has three years of collegiate officiating experience and 10 years of high school officiating experience in Louisiana. Adams tends to be inconsistent especially on charge/block calls. He is another of Tommy Heinsohn's least favorites. In one game, Tommy went ballistic yelling at the top of his lungs "GO BACK TO YOUR MOMMA BENNIE ADAMS!!!" With 2 of Tommy's favorite targets calling the game, someone maybe should monitor his blood pressure during this game. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 with Adams on the court. Adams officiated the loss at Indiana that was poorly called but the Celtics took 24 free throws to 18 for the Pacers. He also called the win against Cleveland where the officiating was good and the Celtics shot 19 free throws to 21 for the Cavs. The third game was the first loss at Philly where the Celtics shot 18 free throws to 15 for the Celtics and the refs pretty much let them play. The Jazz are 3-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Adams. Adams is another ref not easily swayed by the home crowd with a home W/L record this season is 20-19.

James Williams
Williams enters his second NBA season having officiated 61 games and officiated six NBA regular season games in 2009-10 as a non-staff official. Williams owns 10 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, having officiated for the NCAA from 2001-2010. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, and has worked two NBA D-League Finals as well as the 2009-10 NBA D-League All-Star Game. He was called up from the D-League last season. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 3-2 all time with Williams as an official. The loss was to Phoenix who shot 16 free throws to 9 for the Celtics and the win was vs the Wizards where both teams shot 23 free throws. Utah is 3-0 this season and 6-2 all time with Williams. Yet another ref that isn't influenced by the home crowd with a W/L record of 19-16.

Home Court and Focus
Once again, the Celtics will be at home and the crowd support should give them a boost.  Also they can't lose focus against the Jazz.  If they come out focused and keep their focus throughout the game, they should get the win.