BOSTON Rebounding continues to be an area of weakness for the Boston Celtics, but not enough of one to keep them from winning.
The latest team to win the battle of the boards against Boston, but lose where it counts most -- the scoreboard -- was Utah as Boston pulled away in the fourth for a 94-82 win. With the victory, Boston (28-22) moves back into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with Philadelphia.
It's hard to imagine that a team getting out-rebounded 49-38 would not only win, but do it by double figures.
"Well it's what we've been doing," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Do I like it? No. But it's who we are right now."
Despite coming up significantly short on the boards, the Jazz were unable to make the C's pay for their poor rebounding.
Utah was especially dominate on the offensive glass, grabbing 16 compared to the Celtics' four.
Even with such a large discrepancy in second and third-shot opportunities, the Jazz only outscored the C's 7-6 on second-chance points.
Rivers attributes his team committing a limited number of turnovers as being instrumental in overcoming their rebounding struggles.
While that was a factor in Boston's victory, here is a review of keys identified prior to the game as being factors in its outcome.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics will do what they can to make the Jazz a jump-shooting team, which is clearly one of the team's biggest weaknesses. Utah has connected on 30.9 percent of their 3s this season, which ranks No. 29 in the NBA. When you take into account that Boston has the NBA's top 3-point shooting defense - opponents are shooting just 30.6 percent on 3s against the Celtics - it could be a long night for the Jazz if they're forced to play primarily from the perimeter.
WHAT WE SAW: It looked like it was going to be a rough night for the Celtics' perimeter defense in limiting the Jazz who came out and made their first three, 3-pointers. However, that would literally be as good as things would get for Utah which did not make another 3-pointer all game. For the night, the C's limited the Jazz to shooting 3-for-10 on 3s -- which for the Celtics' defense, is an average night when it comes to defending the 3-point shot.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Al Jefferson: Kevin Garnett has seen his share of centers with an array of offensive skills, but "Big Al" is right up there with the best of them. He has 21 double-doubles this year, and is averaging 19.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. For Garnett, it will come down to doing what he seems to do most nights - whatever is needed to win. Sometimes that's score, other times it is to rebound or defend. Try door No. 3 tonight. Because the one thing we all know about Al Jefferson he will get his shots up.
WHAT WE SAW: If you love to see intense big men go at it with attitude, you had to love this matchup. Garnett has had the upper hand just about every time these two have faced each other, and Wednesday was no different. Garnett had a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the season. Jefferson missed seven of his first eight shots but finished with 18 points on 7-for-19 shooting. He also picked up a technical foul, along with Garnett, in the fourth quarter when Garnett once again found a way to get under his skin.
"One of his Jedi mind tricks worked tonight," said Celtics guard Keyon Dooling. "A lot of times people focus more on antics, and lose sight of a particular possession in the game. His Jedi mind trick worked tonight."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce has been on a wicked tear of late, and you can bet the Celtics will look for him early and often tonight. Look for Boston to try and get Pierce the ball on the elbow more or posting up against a smaller defender in C.J. Miles. Depending on how Utah responds to that, Pierce can play the role of low-post scorer or facilitator to the team's perimeter players as well as guards such as Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo cutting to the basket.
WHAT WE SAW: Although Garnett led all scorers, Pierce continues to provide the kind of offensive juice that the Celtics desperately need. He had 20 points on 6-for-16 shooting, in addition to six rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Because the Jazz didn't really change up and double-team Pierce much, he was looking to be more of a scorer which is why he had just one assist. It was Pierce's fifth straight game with at least 20 points scored -- his longest such stretch this season.
STAT TO TRACK: One of the byproducts of Boston playing more "small ball" units, is that they become quite vulnerable to points in the paint. Unfortunately for Boston, that plays right into one of Utah's biggest strengths. The Jazz are scoring 50.2 points per game in the paint, which ranks No. 2 in the NBA. The C's are literally at the other end of the points in the paint spectrum, averaging 34.5 points in the paint per game which is No. 29 - or second-to-last - in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: There was the potential for Boston to get smashed in this category. Had it happened, no one would be shocked. Although the C's wound up losing the points in the paint battle 42-36, the margin was surprisingly close when you consider Utah's size and how they absolutely smashed the C's on the boards all game.
"Going into the game rebounding was a key for us and honestly we didn't do a very good job there," Rivers said. "They're a great rebounding team, though. Overall, I thought we did pretty well."