NBA on ESPN Picks ATS: Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz

Isaiah Thomas made his first All-Star appearance this season.
Isaiah Thomas made his first All-Star appearance this season.

Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz
Time: 10:30 PM EST (ESPN)
Spread: PICK
Total: 195

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The Boston Celtics are surging up the standings in the East, as are the number of people that feel Boston can legitimately contend in the Eastern Conference. Boston has won eight of its past 10 games to improve to 32-23 on the season and holds a No. 3 seed in the East to-date.

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The Celtics will travel to face the Utah Jazz in a game with EVEN odds. The contest will air as the second leg of an ESPN double header at 10:30 PM Eastern time.

Boston most recently knocked off the L.A. Clippers in impressive fashion, winning 139-134 in a game which displayed that the C’s can put up points with the other major powerhouses in the league. The Celtics rallied late to push the game into overtime where it shut the door on the Clips. First-time All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 36 points and dished 11 assists while going 12 of 21 from the field.

The Celtics had six other players score 14 points or more, including getting 45 points from its bench. Boston shot 49.5 percent from the field in the game and now appears to have the scoring potential to be a force. The Celtics have been known as a defensive team, but when it is getting 19 points from defensive specialist Jae Crowder, it is apparent that Brad Stevens group is starting to come around on the offensive end.

Thomas, for his part, has been sensational scoring the ball the entire season. He is posting 21.5 points and 6.6 assists per game while posting a PER of 21.4 on the year. Both Crowder and fellow defensive specialist Avery Bradley are viable scoring options with the tandem averaging 29 points between them. Bradley has become a viable three-point weapon in Boston’s offense this season, shooting 37.4 percent from behind the arc, while Crowder is especially effective from the corners and hits 35.2 percent from three in his own right.

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The Celtics have constructed a roster laden with role players, but each Celtic seems to know his role and the roster fits together quite well. The defensive identity is what belongs to Boston, but given that the team has begun to prove it has scoring potential as well, could it be that the Celtics are one of those “second tier” contending type teams?

The Jazz are 17-10 at home this season, but have lost its last two games, both at home. The most recent was a 103-89 ‘L’ to the Washington Wizards before the All-Star break. Gordon Hayward scored 19 points on 7 of 15 shooting and Rudy Gobert finished with a double-double, but it was not enough for the Jazz.

Hayward has been shooting about his season average the last 10 games in which he has averaged 19.9 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per night. He has shot the ball 46 percent from the floor in Jazz wins, however, while being good for just 40.9 percent shooting in Utah’s 27 losses. Hayward has become a consistent staple of Utah’s attack and is not one who has many bad nights.

The Celtics will likely counter by putting Crowder on Hayward which could cause significant problems for the Jazz. Crowder is an athletic and rugged, even rough, defender and he could give Hayward some problems.

Even if so, the Jazz will look to go inside to Derrick Favors and Gobert, both should have heady advantages over Boston’s somewhat mediocre frontcourt of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. This game is basically a pairing of two teams that have very different strengths and weaknesses on the offensive end, while both teams are strong defensively and have made their names with smothering defense.

Accordingly, the total set for this game is low at 195, but it is appropriate. It may be that the game easily goes under if both teams unleash the full level of defensive havoc by which they are known.

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