The No. 5 team in the Western Conference heads to Boston to face the No. 3 team in the East on Friday night when the Utah Jazz face the Boston Celtics. Both teams are pretty much locked in for the playoffs, but there’s still a chance to improve their seeding.
The Boston Celtics are coming off a 112-106 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, which isn’t saying much considering the Cavaliers are the worst team in the Eastern Conference. However, before their win against the Cavaliers, they were on a two-game losing streak.
The Utah Jazz are on a three-game win streak after defeating the Wizards, Cavaliers and Knicks. With two games left on their away stretch, the Jazz will look to get their fourth straight win and their third on the road against the Celtics.
The Utah Jazz come in as 2.5-point underdogs with the over/under set at 219.5. With a lot on the line for both teams, let’s evaluate them and see if we can come up with a winner.
Utah Jazz, not far from the two-seed Clippers
The Utah Jazz have been impressive recently, winning three straight games, two of which were on the road. Although some may think the level of competition was low, winning two road games in a row is no easy task. They’ll have a chance to bring their road win total to three if they can pull off a win against the Celtics on Friday night.
The Jazz, although only the fifth seed in the West are one of the most well-rounded teams in the league. With the 16th-ranked offense and the ninth-ranked defense, the Jazz have a real chance to go deep in the playoffs. A statement win on the road over the Celtics will further confirm that they belong.
The good news for the Jazz is the Celtics will come into Friday night pretty banged up. As it stands, Jaylen Brown has already been ruled out. Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker remain questionable, which bodes well for the Jazz winning straight-up and the Under.
Speaking of spreads, the Utah Jazz haven’t done well against the spread. Overall they have a below .500 record of 28-31-2. Recently, however, they’ve been much worse, going 1-6 ATS in their last seven games. The last time these two faced was at the end of February, the Jazz came in as five-point favorites and ended up losing 114-103 at home.
Boston Celtics riddled with injuries, but ready for a fight
The Celtics have had some inconsistencies here and there but are one of the stronger teams in the Eastern Conference. Their only problem is, they are riddled with injuries. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the worst time besides the playoffs for the Celtics to have this problem. With four tough games coming up, the Celtics will have to dig deep if they want a strong push towards the playoffs.
The great news for the Celtics is that they have emerging superstar Jayson Tatum, who is coming off a 32-point game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. With so many players out, though, Tatum will have his hands full juggling the Jazz on Friday night. Boston will have to play tough defense against Rudy Gobert in the paint, and if Hayward sits out, we can guess that Tatum will be responsible for Bojan Bogdanovic.
Good news for bettors is that the Celtics have done well against the spread all year, with an overall record of 37-21-3. They’ve gone 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight games and have a home ATS record of 17-11-2. They were also able to cover in late February against the Jazz, pulling off a 114-103 upset on the road.
Pick and Prediction
If Boston was at full strength, it would be a near-lock to take them over the Jazz. The Jazz have been bad against the spread lately and will be on their third consecutive road game. Usually, factors like that steer people away from the road team. However, you have to take into consideration that the Celtics have five players on their injury report.
Instead of leaning towards a team that is clearly better, you have to lean towards the team that is healthier. Utah is at full strength and likely won’t have to worry about Boston’s top players, which means they’ll focus their full attention on Jayson Tatum. I’ll take the visiting team in this one, although just barely covering the spread, Utah Jazz +2.5.