Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz Pick & Prediction MARCH 18th 2023

Stadium: EnergySolutions Arena Salt Lake City
Logo Boston Celtics
Logo Utah Jazz

-4.5 -110
232.5o -110



What seemed improbable heading into the season for the Utah Jazz and even less likely after they traded three more key players in February appears to be within reach.

The Jazz, however, have another big hurdle in their way of earning a spot in the postseason: their schedule.

Beginning Saturday night against Boston at home in Salt Lake City, the Jazz have the most difficult schedule remaining in the NBA. Utah's strength of schedule (winning percentage of opponents) for its final 13 games is a league-high .556.

That difficult final stretch for the Jazz (33-36) includes a home-and-away set vs. the Celtics (49-22), two games against the Sacramento Kings (42-27), and matchups with the Milwaukee Bucks (50-20), Phoenix Suns (38-32), Denver Nuggets (47-23) and Brooklyn Nets (39-31).

Utah enters Saturday's contest tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 10th position in the Western Conference, which is the last of the four play-in spots. The Jazz are two games out of the final assured playoff berth.

While their player transactions and acquisition of abundant first-round draft picks have the Jazz linked with tanking accusations, it's been clear that Utah coach Will Hardy and his crew are out to win games.

"Hope is a good motivator," Hardy said. "No one's really out of it right now at this point in the Western Conference."

Two teams have been eliminated in the West -- the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs -- and Denver is sitting in the No. 1 spot. The Jazz, however, are only 4 1/2 games from being a No. 4 seed and are just 2 1/2 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers, who occupy the 13th spot in the conference.

"We've got as good a shot as anyone," Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk said. "Everyone is pretty bunched up there. We've got to string together a few wins, keep taking a step forward and playing good basketball and letting the chips fall where they may."

The Celtics, on the other hand, are eyeing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They are 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the top record in the East and the NBA.

The Philadelphia 76ers are just one game behind the Celtics at 47-22.

Boston did its part late Friday night, outlasting Portland 126-112 on the road. Jayson Tatum led the way with 34 points and 12 rebounds, and Jaylen Brown scored 27 points.

"I just felt like we had that competitive nature again," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said.

Al Horford, who collected 12 points and 10 assists against the Blazers, told reporters that the Celtics' coach "challenged us here to be better as a group, be more focused and really get back to who we are. The group has. We've responded."

While this will be Boston's third road game in four nights, the Jazz should be rested after most recently competing on Monday. Utah will be playing at home for the first time since returning from a six-game trip, which ended with a 119-115 loss at the Miami Heat.

--Field Level Media

Boston Celtics
Utah Jazz

Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz Recap MAR 18TH 2023

Lauri Markkanen scored 28 points with 10 rebounds and the Utah Jazz rallied late to take a 118-117 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

Jaylen Brown topped Boston with 25 points and Grant Williams scored 23, but his last-second game-winning attempt near the rim was blocked by rookie Walker Kessler.

Despite the loss, Boston (49-23) clinched a playoff spot, while Utah (34-36) remained in postseason contention in the crowded Western Conference field.

Kessler finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, Kelly Olynyk had 13 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, and Talen Horton-Tucker contributed 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Boston led by as many as 19 points and was up by six with 2:31 after a 3-pointer by Williams, who hit 7 of 12 shots from deep.

But the Jazz, playing their first game since Monday, returned after a six-game road trip and rallied past the road-weary Celtics. It was Boston's third game in four nights.

Utah, which converted 17 offensive rebounds into 20 points, used a late 6-3 push to pull within four, 114-110, with under two minutes remaining.

Brown was then called for a flagrant foul, but Kessler missed both free throws. The Jazz salvaged the possession, however, thanks to the fourth 3-pointer of the night by Ochai Agbaji to cut the lead to one with 1:33 left.

Brown and Markkanen then exchanged treys, before Horton-Tucker put Utah ahead by one with a layup with 35.3 seconds remaining.

Tatum missed a 3-point attempt on the ensuing Boston possession, but the Celtics got the ball back with five seconds remaining after Horton-Tucker lost the ball out of bounds.

Kessler then atoned for his missed late free throws by blocking Williams' short last-second jumper to preserve the win.

Boston, which won in Portland on Friday night, jumped out to a commanding 53-34 lead.

That deficit quickly evaporated as Utah went on a 23-5 run to pull within one. Tatum, who had 15 points, put the Celtics up 64-57 heading into halftime with six straight points.

Blake Griffin gave the Celtics a 67-61 lead with a 3-pointer early in the third. The Jazz answered with a 10-2 run, highlighted by back-to-back treys from Agbaji, to snatch the 71-69 lead, setting up a back-and-forth finish.

Tatum became the first player in the NBA to reach the 2,000-point mark this season.

--Field Level Media