BROOKLYN — The Utah Jazz’s three-game win streak was snapped when they lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night. But there’s not much time for the team to analyze the loss or review what they could have done better against Kevin Durant or even look back at the good things they did on Sunday night against the New York Knicks.
The Jazz will play a third game in four nights Wednesday against the Boston Celtics in the team’s third stop of a six-game road trip, their longest trip of the season. And while the Celtics aren’t one of the teams that have been getting a ton of play as a contender throughout the season, they have very quietly been playing at an incredibly high level.
“They’re really a good team and they’ve found a chemistry,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after the Jazz’s loss to the Nets. “Between Marcus Smart’s leadership, and (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown both playing off one another at various times in the game and obviously defensively, they’ve been terrific.”
Terrific is a bit of an understatement. The Celtics have the best defensive rating in the league this season, the fourth-best offensive rating in the league since the All-Star break, and the best overall net rating in the league since Jan. 1.
Part of them being so defensively sound is thanks to the length they show on that side of the ball, the kind of defensive length that has been a real problem for the Jazz this season. They know they’ll have to be sharp Wednesday.
“Get stops, get out in transition, don’t let them set their defense,” Donovan Mitchell said of the game plan for Boston. “We don’t have the tallest backcourt, so being able to attack in space, make sure we’re spacing for our 3s. ... Got to be able to get downhill and create, find guys and take our open shots.”
Taking open shots and making quick decisions might be the most important part of that game plan, because if they don’t, the Jazz can get easily overwhelmed and then they start to spiral.
“It’s kind of like with Golden State,” Mitchell said. “When you turn down shots or shot-fake or ... we don’t take the first initial look, you’re driving into seven-foot wingspans and such.”
That’s not hyperbole. The wingspans of the Celtics starting five are as follows: Tatum, 6-foot-11; Brown, 6-11; Marcus Smart 6-9; Al Horford, 7-0; Robert Williams 7-5.
“In a game like that we’re going to need to move the ball quickly and effectively in order to shift their defense and be able to attack against their length,” Snyder said.
While the Jazz are coming off a loss to the Nets, the Celtics are on a hot streak having won their last four and 11 of their last 13 games. Williams (knee tendonitis) and Smart (non-COVID-19 related illness) did sit out Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the Celtics didn’t seem to skip a beat without them and they aren’t expected to be out long and could be back in time to see the Jazz on Wednesday.