NEW YORK — The Utah Jazz’s biggest test of the current four-game road trip is coming up on Friday in the form of the Boston Celtics, the only playoff-contending team the Jazz face through their East-coast swing.
When the Jazz hit the court at TD Garden in Boston, the question hanging in the air will be; when an opponent is able to eliminate one of the Jazz’s go-to weapons, do the Jazz have what it takes to get the win?
The New York Knicks scouting report is not unlike that of any other team when planning to play the Jazz.
“We always say we want to take something away,” Knicks coach Mike Miller said before Wednesday’s contest at Madison Square Garden.
Every team around the league has a group of people dedicated to finding the strengths and weaknesses of each upcoming opponent and as far as the Jazz are concerned it seems to be just that easy; take something away from them and the dominoes start to fall.
In the four losses that followed the All-Star game, 3-pointers generated by the Jazz’s two best shooters were the key. Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic combined for less than 10 shots from beyond the arc in those games. For comparison, in the four most recent Jazz wins, Ingles and Bogdanovic combined for 10-plus threes.
If the perimeter defense of the opponent is lacking, they look at what the Jazz have struggled with recently. The Jazz have had trouble stopping transition scoring, so opponents run and they run fast.
The Jazz have one of the best pick-and-roll combos in Ingles and Rudy Gobert, so limit the touches between those players and close off the lanes available to them.
Of course, many of the Jazz opponents recently have been sub-.500 teams, so even if they employ this line of thinking and are able to limit the Jazz in one area, they often can’t maintain that through 48 minutes, or have enough weaknesses of their own that the Jazz are able to overcome any sort of pointed attack.
The thing is, not every opponent is going to be the Wizards, Cavaliers or the Knicks — the last three teams the Jazz have played — teams who experience losing more often than winning and are happy to employ any kind of defensive tactic that could possibly give them an advantage even if it doesn’t mean getting the win.
Additionally, as the playoffs grow nearer, that question about whether the Jazz can withstand an attack that limits their abilities becomes even more nuanced with teams that are stacked with talent — teams like the Celtics.
Boston will be without Jaylen Brown (hamstring strain) and possibly former Jazz man Gordon Hayward (bruised right knee) on Friday and that does not at all mean they aren’t capable of beating the Jazz.
With players like Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics pose a threat to any team, every night, and Friday will be no different.