The Boston Celtics have won their past four games, and seven of their past 10 with a lineup featuring Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin and other former role players filling the roles of the injury Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
The talent disparity may be striking between those in action and those sitting on the bench in suits, but for one former Celtic, that’s not surprising at all.
“No team can really speed them up or break their rhythm,” said Jae Crowder, who played for Boston for 21/2 seasons. “They want to play same pace, same way, move the ball the same way. That’s what makes them effective.”
Crowder could be understood for feeling a little cold toward Boston, which traded him to Cleveland this summer for Irving as part of a blockbuster deal. But Crowder doesn’t reveal anything regarding Boston publicly except respect for the organization and the coach, Brad Stevens, who helped his NBA career blossom.
While he said the Jazz (42-32) could use a win on Wednesday when the Celtics come to town, Crowder doesn’t expect it to be easy.
Crowder has compared Stevens to coach Quin Snyder before, and at least on defense, there’s plenty to compare: Boston is first in defensive rating (101.2) and the Jazz are third (102.0). The Celtics and Jazz also run similar paces, ranking 23rd and 25th in the league respectively.
Crowder said he has yet to learn Utah’s entire playbook “like I did in Boston.” But he’s said he’s getting a feel. The Jazz also have learned to lean on him: The team is 10-0 when Crowder scores 14 or more points.
But as it was with the Celtics, and as it is with the Jazz, Crowder keeps his focus on the other side of the ball with eight regular season games remaining.
“Defense, we should bring it every night,” he said. “We shouldn’t have any lapses defensively that we don’t want to have. Of course, every game there will be some, but to look back on the whole game and say it just wasn’t there, we don’t want to be a part of that.”
Crowder is not the only former Celtic on the Jazz: Jonas Jerebko also played for Boston during the seasons Crowder was there. In Jerebko’s last game against the Celtics, he scored a season-high 17 points.
Neto will take another week to rehab
Raul Neto is making progress recovering from his wrist fracture, but his return to the court will likely take at least another week, the Jazz said Tuesday. Neto has missed the past two weeks of play since injuring his left wrist against New Orleans this month. Neto is averaging 4.6 points and 1.8 assists per game this season. The Jazz have helped fill the gap with the return of Dante Exum, who has played in the past six games.