This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Celtics arrived in Utah on Friday night as the third-place team in the Eastern Conference.
Most people are surprised by the Boston's success this season, but not Jazz coach Quin Snyder.
"They have an identity as a team," he said. "They play hard. Their individual players play hard, but collectively they play hard, too."
Heading into their annual appearance at Vivint Smart Home Arena, coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics had won 10 of their previous 12 games. Among their victims: Cleveland (104-103), Chicago (109-101) and the L.A. Clippers (139-134 in overtime).
Boston exited the All-Star break with a 32-23 record, mostly because of their fourth-ranked offense. The Celtics averaged 105.7 points in their first 55 games. Only Golden State (115.5), Oklahoma City (110.1) and Sacramento (107.1) score more.
"Their pace has improved and I think their pace reflects their personality," Snyder said. "They have multiple ballhandlers and their bigs are very skilled. So they are a unique team that knows who they are.
"Coupled with their ability to individually and collectively play hard if you ask any coach that's where you start. You want a team that plays together and plays hard. And, obviously, Brad has done a great job getting them to play that way."
Former general manager Kevin O'Connor now serves as the Jazz as a consultant.
He has been in Salt Lake during the days leading up to the NBA trade deadline and stayed to watch the Utah-Boston game.
Asked what his duties entail, O'Connor said, "A lot of nothing. And I'm trying to do it well."
O'Connor works with general manager Dennis Lindsey, vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin and assistant general manager Justin Zanik. He scouts college games and serves as an adviser, mostly before the draft and during the summer league.
"It's been a wonderful experience for me to be able to make suggestions and not have to make the decisions," said O'Connor, who lives in South Carolina.
Asked about the caliber of the 2016 draft class, the notoriously tight-lipped O'Connor smiled and said, "No comment."
The NBA has announced the Jazz's home game March 14 against LeBron James and the Cavaliers has been changed. Utah and Cleveland will tip off at 8:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
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