While the Celtics are still likely in position to contend for a championship despite the trade of one of the league’s top interior defenders, the Jazz appear prepared to rebuild following the departure of their two-time All-Star point guard.
After practicing with its two newest players for the first time, Boston looks to send Utah to a seventh loss in eight games when they meet Monday night in Salt Lake City.
The Celtics (42-15) were stunned by the deal that sent Kendrick Perkins(notes) to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green(notes) and Nenad Krstic(notes) early Thursday, and responded with an 89-75 loss to Denver later that night.
Boston managed to put the trade and lackluster performance behind it, and bounced back with Green and Krstic in the lineup in a 99-92 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. The victory was the fourth in five games for the Atlantic Division leader.
Krstic started at center and had nine points and six rebounds - all offensive boards, a Celtics season high - in 21 minutes, while Green had seven points in 18 minutes off the bench.
“It was great for their first day, because we really didn’t have a lot of stuff for them,” said forward Paul Pierce(notes), who scored a team-high 24 points. “It’s hard, because we only had a shootaround to prepare, so it’s going to take time … but the good thing about it is that we have 25 games left, and hopefully that’s enough time to implement them into what we’re trying to do, and (it) wasn’t a bad start.”
Doc Rivers liked what he saw from the two newest Celtics, but is still uncertain how to play Green, the Thunder’s third-leading scorer at 15.2 points.
Green, who matched a season low with five shot attempts Saturday, totaled 37 points and shot 13 of 23 in two games against the Jazz this season.
“I’m going to have to figure out how to use Jeff,” Rivers said. “I have no idea yet and that’s going to take some time.”
The Jazz (32-28) have been spiraling down the standings for a while, losing 15 of 20 to drop from third place in the Western Conference to ninth.
“We are just looking for something good to happen so that we can start feeling good about ourselves,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.
A matchup with Boston might not provide the best opportunity for Utah to break out of its funk. The Celtics beat the Jazz 110-86 on Jan. 21 in Boston, getting 21 points from Kevin Garnett(notes) and 20 from Pierce.
No Utah player scored more than 12, and the starters combined for a season-low 38 points. Former Celtic Al Jefferson(notes) finished with seven points on 1-of-11 shooting, but he’s in the midst of a scoring surge, averaging 27.0 points in his last five games - 9.2 better than his team-leading average.