Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz Pick & Prediction JANUARY 5th 2024

The Boston Celtics will be looking to avoid back-to-back losses Friday when they face the visiting Utah Jazz.

Boston had its six-game winning streak end Tuesday with a 127-123 loss at Oklahoma City. Kristaps Porzingis made 12 of his 18 field goal attempts and led the Celtics with 34 points in the loss.

“They did a really good job of getting out quick and speeding up the game,” Porzingis said. “They just sped up the game and we didn’t respond the same way. Overall, I think our effort was there.”

Porzingis is averaging 20.6 points per game and is Boston’s third-leading scorer, behind Jayson Tatum (23.5) and Jaylen Brown (22.7). Brown missed 14 of 18 field goal attempts against Oklahoma City, including each of his eight shots from behind the 3-point arc.

Oklahoma City outscored Boston 40-25 in the third quarter.

“Can’t have a 40-point quarter against a team like that,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “They put pressure on you the entire game, so you have to have a high level of defensive activity, connectivity to make multiple efforts the entire game.”

Jrue Holiday returned to the lineup against Oklahoma City after sitting out Sunday’s 134-101 victory over San Antonio with a sprained elbow. Despite Holiday’s availability, Mazzulla played reserve guard Payton Pritchard the entire fourth quarter.

When asked about that decision after the game, Mazzulla said he liked what he saw from Pritchard at each end of the court.

“Good ball pressure,” Mazzulla said. “Good physicality. Just brought a level of physicality to the game defensively and spacing on offense. I thought his presence helped us get back into the game.”

Boston hasn’t lost back-to-back games since November, when it dropped a 114-109 overtime decision to Minnesota and then lost to Philadelphia 106-103 two nights later. The Celtics have scored at least 120 points in each of their past eight games.

Utah is coming off Wednesday’s 154-148 overtime victory against Detroit. Jordan Clarkson scored 36 points in the win, and Lauri Markkanen added 31.

Utah’s 154 points tied a franchise record. The Jazz shot 51.5 percent from the field (53 of 103) and 50 percent from 3-point range (16 of 32).

“I think it’s really a culmination of how our team’s playing and everybody trusting that when they give the ball up that everybody else is going to continue to try to make the right play,” Utah coach Will Hardy said.

Utah has won six of its past seven games and nine of its past 12.

Markkanen, who leads the Jazz in scoring (23.5) and rebounding (8.4), said Utah will have to step up its defensive effort during its three-game road trip, which includes matchups with Philadelphia (Saturday) and at Milwaukee (Monday).

“Obviously it’s fun to score the ball and stuff, but I think it just puts a lot of pressure on our offense and execution,” Markkanen said. “If we’re not getting stops we know that we have to get a score on the other end so it doesn’t get out of hand.”

The Celtics enter Friday’s game with a 16-0 record at home. Utah is 5-14 on the road.

–Field Level Media

Docsports, The most trusted name in sports handicapping