Friday, January 21, 2011

Girls talk sports: looking ahead to Celtics-Jazz

If the Jazz don't come in to the Garden fired up and roaring to go tonight, there's something seriously wrong with them. They're coming off back to back losses to two of the NBA's worst teams, Washington and New Jersey. In the loss against New Jersey, the Jazz defense allowed SEVEN Nets to score in double figures. Not a good look. The Jazz's road woes are not a new phenomenon: the last time they beat a team with a winning record away from home was November 20, in Portland. Eek. But hey- the Celtics, as we all know, have the maddening tendency to not show up to these kinds of games. Match ups that should result in a blowout victory for the Green all too often turn in to nail biters. 

The Jazz are actually quite a good team. They're coached by one of the best, in Jerry Sloan. They have an elite point guard in Deron Williams, a versatile big man (playing really impressive basketball as of late) in Al Jefferson, one of my favorite small forwards in the league, Andrei Kirilenko (I love people who look like they have no business being in the NBA, but come out and BALL)- and Paul Millsap. In case you haven't heard of Paul Millsap- he's THAT dude. Drafted out of the second round, because Jerry Sloan is a genius, Millsap is a great all around basketball player. He's well sized, at 6'8" and 250, active on the boards (pulling down around 8 a night) and a talented scorer, posting around 17 points a game. He's quick, he's athletic, and he's confident in his game. He's also only 25 years old, so he's just going to keep getting better and better. I gush over Paul Millsap in this way because most of the time when people talk about the Jazz, Deron Williams is one of the sole topics of conversation, and the rest of the Jazz talent is kind of skated over. So shout out to Paul Millsap for being an unsung hero.

Offensively, Utah will want to push the pace. D. Will looks a little bit chubby, but don't be fooled- he's quite speedy. Rondo keeping him out of the paint and making him shoot jump shots or pass to someone else will be key. Look for Rondo to come out with a chip on his shoulder, because he thrives on these big time match ups. He knows people think D. Will is better than him, and he loves coming out and having a monster game to prove them wrong. Jefferson, Milsap and Kirilenko will all be active on the offensive boards, so battling them and limiting second chance points should also be a point of focus for the Celtics.  

Defensively... Well- the Jazz don't really like to play defense. D.Will has publicly admitted that the Jazz have no answer for the pick and roll. Raja Bell, the starting 2 guard for the Jazz, has spoken about their inability to play help defense. The Celtics need to make it a point to exploit the Jazz's lack of a defense: they need to move the ball and attack the paint. A team that doesn't know how to defend the pick and roll and isn't competent in it's help defense will want nothing to do with a fast paced offense where the ball is moving. They also will want nothing to do with Shaq in the paint- Al Jefferson will match him, but it's just physically impossible to guard someone as large and experienced as Shaq one on one. They'll need to send someone to help, and Shaq, as he is so talented at doing, will need to then either out muscle them and score, or find the open person. 

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