The Utah Jazz are back to their winning ways again.
Following wins over the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks, the Jazz picked up their fourth straight victory on Friday, defeating the Boston Celtics by a final score of 99-94.
Here are some quick thoughts from the game.
1. When will the Celtics get healthy again?
The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward against the Jazz. Brown remains out with a hamstring injury while Hayward is listed as day-to-day with a knee contusion.
"It could be worse," Brown said before the game. "That's how I see it. Just trying to get better every day."
Kemba Walker, meanwhile, is still on a minutes restriction after missing an extended period of time last month with a knee injury. After playing 23 minutes against the Brooklyn Nets earlier this week, he played 26 minutes in this one, finishing with 13 points and seven assists.
2. The Celtics are top-heavy
Boston's depth becomes an issue when one or more of their top-four players are out.
Normally, the Celtics can have at least one of Walker, Brown, Hayward and Jayson Tatum on the court at all times, giving them an All-Star or All-Star calibre player they can run the offence through. Without them, it puts a lot of pressure on whoever is available - Walker and Tatum in this game - to carry the load offensively, made all the more difficult if one of those players available (Walker) is on a minutes restriction.
The issue isn't that Walker and Tatum aren't capable of carrying the load. It's what happens when one or both of them take a seat on the bench, because it forces the Semi Ojeleyes, Brad Wanamakers and Romeo Langfords of the Celtics to step up. Not that they don't belong in the NBA, but they're not exactly players who are known for their ability to create their own offence, which is problematic against a team like the Jazz, who have been among the best defensive teams in the league over the last three seasons.
In this game, Utah's second unit of Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, Tony Bradley and Georges Niang ate Boston's second unit of Wanamaker, Langford, Enes Kanter and Robert Williams III alive. Plus-minus is far from a perfect stat, but it's telling that all of Boston's starters were a positive and all of its reserves were a negative.
Wanamaker had a particularly rough game - the Jazz outscored the Celtics by 25 points in his 26 minutes.
3. Jayson Tatum is human after all
Well, sort of.
GOT IT! pic.twitter.com/w7p7J7KLSh- Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 7, 2020
Tatum entered this game having scored 30 or more points in a career-best five straight games. One of those 30-point games came against the Jazz two weeks ago, when he led the Celtics to victory in Utah with 33 points and 11 rebounds.
It marked the third 30-10 game of his career.
The Jazz had far more success against him this time around. In 32 minutes of play, Tatum scored only 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting from the field.
Rudy Gobert was able to give him trouble at the rim, coming up with a couple of big-time blocks.
✌️ 𝗗𝗣𝗢𝗬 ✌️#TakeNote pic.twitter.com/sjBxhk29Oo- Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 7, 2020
4. Marcus Smart is a highly unusual 3-point shooter
Most players are more efficient shooting catch-and-shoot 3s than pull-up 3s.
Smart isn't one of those players.
According to NBA.com, Smart entered Friday's game having made 30.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts this season compared to 41.5 percent of his pull-up 3-point attempts. For perspective, the former is one of the worst rates in the league and the latter is one of the best rates in the league.
It's truly bizarre.
😳 pic.twitter.com/UAINS0lPbE- Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 7, 2020
What's even more bizarre is that it was the opposite case last season - Smart made 38.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s and 29.1 percent of his pull-up 3s. The season before that, he was bad in both situations.
It isn't just a case of small sample size either. Smart shoots more catch-and-shoot 3s, but he still takes a decent amount of pull-up 3s, enough for them to make up nearly a fifth of his shot attempts on the season.
Again, truly bizarre.
5. Somewhere, Marcin Gortat is smiling
Daniel Theis does a lot of little things for the Celtics.
One little thing he does better than just about anyone else in the NBA is seal off his defender when one of his teammates drives to the basket, a move made famous by former NBA player Marcin Gortat.
An example of Theis doing it from this game:
Watch the seal from Daniel Theis here on the Kemba drive. As Kemba comes off the handoff, Gobert is in a drop. Theis rolls not to the basket but to the level of where Gobert is and basically sets a second screen to open Kemba up and take away the rim protection. pic.twitter.com/Z00IX5JPom- Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 7, 2020
Theis does it so much that it's become a secret weapon of sorts for the Celtics.
6. Jordan Clarkson should be in the Sixth Man of the Year race
He was a difference-maker in this one. He came up with 17 points off the bench, making him Utah's second-leading scorer in the game.
JC with no quit pic.twitter.com/aa5DasKGCs- Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 7, 2020
He's not going to win the award - he faces stiff competition in Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams and Dennis Schroder, to name a few - but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Clarkson get some votes based on the way he's played since being traded to a Jazz team that desperately needed a scoring punch off the bench.
7. What's next?
The Celtics have an interesting stretch coming up. Their next game is on Sunday against a competitive Oklahoma City Thunder team, followed by a two-game road trip against the Indiana Pacers (March 10) and Milwaukee Bucks (March 12), two teams they could face in the playoffs.
As for the Jazz, they have some tough matchups remaining this month. They'll face the Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Lakers (twice), San Antonio Spurs (twice) and Dallas Mavericks over the coming weeks, teams that are either in position to make the playoffs or are fighting to get in.
The Jazz are fighting for positioning themselves, as they now own a half a game over the Houston Rockets for the fourth-best record in the Western Conference.
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