Strong identities of injury-prone rosters or well-defined styles of average talent -- both can make up lower-tier playoff teams. A slapped-together roster of the Boston Celtics representing the former and an old-school Utah Jazz team as the latter find themselves in seventh place in their respective conferences.
The Celtics visit Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday to close out a five-game road trip against the Jazz as both teams continue to fight for their playoff slots. But both teams also come off losses. The Portland Trail Blazers stuffed the Celtics in a 92-86 game on Sunday, while Utah fell 107-94 on the road Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Boston is still working through a slightly revamped roster that has held it together with nothing more than a gritty brand of basketball, and Utah is rolling with one that, surprisingly, didn't change at the trade deadline.
The Jazz, not a team to push the pace of games, will rely upon their always sturdy frontcourt of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, who will challenge a Celtics team that is dead last in the NBA with a rebounding differential of minus-3.9.
Celtics newcomers still fitting in
Boston is still attempting to find normalcy this deep into the season and with injuries creating roster turnover. Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams are two games deep into their tenures with the Celtics, and so far head coach Doc Rivers has gotten mixed results.
One interesting note is the use of Williams, a 6'6 swingman who has the playmaking skills of a point guard. He's actually played point for the Celtics and had four assists in a blowout in Phoenix. He and Crawford combined for 19 points that game, but in the Sunday loss to Portland, the duo of newcomers combined for two points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Hayward picks up where he left off
Second-year win Gordon Hayward had found his shot and his confidence back in January. He was averaging 14.5 points and shooting 47 percent from behind the three-point arc before a shoulder injury hit. After missing 10 games, Hayward returned five days ago and has scored 17 points and 23 points in two games for the Jazz.
Hayward hasn't lacked aggression, and he's gone to the foul stripe 20 times in those two outings.
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Odds: The Jazz opened as seven-point favorites.
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