Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

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Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The Rajon Rondo-Deron Williams point guard matchup is too obvious to ignore during the build-up to tonight's game between Boston and Utah.

But in all likelihood, it will be the play of the bigs that'll determine the outcome.

And unlike most of the Celtics games this season, the C's won't come into this one with a decisive edge up front.

The Jazz boast a frontline that includes Andrei Kirilenko, Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and former Celtic, Al Jefferson.

"As far as size and talent and skill . . . they're pretty good," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

That kind of quality depth allows them to be a physical team, evident by the Jazz averaging 24.4 fouls committed per game on the road - tops among teams in the NBA this season.

That means a number of Boston's big men may find themselves at the free throw line more often.

Normally that would be something to cringe about, especially when you think about Shaquille O'Neal.

But lately, the Big Shamrock has been knocking down the freebies.

O'Neal is shooting 55.9 percent from the free throw line this season. In his last five games, Shaq has been almost Ray Allen-like from the line, converting 11 of his last 14 attempts (78.6 percent).

Free throw shooting could be the difference, especially against a Utah team that has been at its best this season in close games.

Utah has won its last five games decided by three points or less, the longest current streak of any NBA team. And don't let tonight's game into overtime.

The Jazz have been just as dominate, winning its last seven regular season games that went into overtime, the longest such streak in the NBA.

And that success in close games is fueled in large part by the play of Williams, considered by some as the top point guard in the NBA.

He is averaging 22.1 points and 9.5 assists per game. In the past 18 seasons, the only player to finish the season with numbers that impressive was New Orleans guard Chris Paul, who averaged 22.8 points and 11 assists per game during the 2008-09 season.

"He's terrific. He's a powerful guard," Rivers said. "He plays at an unbelievable tempo. What sets him apart, is he's the best shooting point guard of the group, of all those guards. That's what makes him so good."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

Bradley could miss 'a little more time' with Achilles injury

BOSTON – Wednesday’s 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks was the fifth time in the last six games that Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley was out because of a right Achilles injury.

Well, it appears the 6-foot-2 guard may miss a few more with this injury.

“I can see him missing a little more time,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said following Wednesday’s loss. “I just think maybe he came back a little bit too early, whatever the case may be.”

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Bradley was expected to play against the Knicks, but was a last-minute scratch.

Celtics big man Al Horford said he didn’t find out Bradley was out until the team was on the floor doing pre-game warmups and he didn’t see him.

“He was really sore,” Stevens said of Bradley. “Went through our walk-through and then came on to the court and did some stuff and was more sore today than he has been. I think he did treatment the whole game.”

This latest setback for Bradley is part of a growing narrative that has dogged him throughout his career which has included him missing games to injury in each of his six-plus NBA seasons.

Bradley came into this season once again hoping to be as injury-free as possible, only to see that dream dashed with this right Achilles strain he's suffering with currently.

Still, there’s no downplaying the significance and value the Celtics have in the 26-year-old. This season, he is second on the Celtics in scoring at 17.7 points per game and leads them in rebounds with 6.9 per game with both being career highs. In addition, he averages just under 35 minutes per game which is also tops on the team.

Marcus Smart has been Stevens’ choice to replace Bradley in the starting lineup when Bradley has been unavailable, and that’s not likely to change between now and Saturday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers.