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Jazz Vs. Celtics: Boston Hosts Al Jefferson, Utah At TD Garden

If you're going to the game tonight and you just happen to run into Jazz center Al Jefferson, you might want to give him a handshake or maybe even a hug. The reason? Without the trade that sent Jefferson to Minnesota and brought Kevin Garnett to Boston, the Celtics in all likelihood would not have won a 17th championship.

Jefferson, now a member of the Utah Jazz, returns to Boston on Friday night as the Celtics host the Jazz in the final game of their six-game homestand at 7:30 p.m. EST (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI). Boston has won four in a row at home after losing to Houston in the first game of the homestand.

This is the first meeting of the season between the Celtics and Jazz. Boston and Utah met twice last season, and each team won on their home floor. Utah has lost the last two games against Boston at TD Garden and seven of ten games in Boston.

Boston (32-9) owns the best record in the Eastern Conference and is coming off of an 86-82 win over conference rival Detroit on Wednesday. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 22 points and Shaquille O'Neal had 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Celtics shot 44.7% from the field and 28.6% from distance in the win.

Ray Allen, who struggled through most of the game, hit a clutch jumper with 24.5 seconds left in the game to give the Celtics the lead. He finished with seven points on 2-of-8 shooting. Despite the tough outing for Allen, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers isn't concerned.

"Ray just makes shots, you know?" Rivers said. "He's one of those guys, he can go 0-for-10, you know the one guy that believes he's going to make it is Ray." (via SB Nation/Sports Network)

Allen has one of the NBA's most effective (and prettiest) jump shots, and has been a menace from the perimeter all throughout his 16-year career. As a result, Allen is on track to make the most three pointers in NBA history.

Allen is approaching Reggie Miller's three-point record for the most made in a career, as the former Indiana Pacers star closed out his tenure with 2,560 three-pointers made. Allen has knocked down 2,533 from beyond the arc. (via SB Nation/Sports Network)

Pierce is Boston's leading scorer, averaging 19.1 points. Allen is second in scoring, averaging 17.5 points, and Garnett is third in scoring with 15 points per contest. Rajon Rondo, who has emerged as one of the premier point guards in the NBA, averages 10.7 points and a league-best 13.2 assists.

Utah (27-15) is coming off a tough 103-95 loss to the lowly New Jersey Nets, who snapped a six-game losing skid with the win. Jefferson scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Deron Williams, another one of the NBA's premier point guards, finished with 20 points and 10 assists. Utah shot 49.3% from the floor and 50% from beyond the arc in the losing effort.

"We had a chance to get in the ball game, but you gotta have a perfect finish and we didn't have that," said Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan. "I think we're better than what we played. Give them credit." (via SB Nation/Sports Network)
The Jazz are winless two games into their current five-game road trip, as Utah lost to the Washington Wizards, 108-101, on Monday. 

Williams leads Utah in scoring (22.1 PPG) and assists (9.5 APG). Paul Millsap is second in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is second in rebounding with 7.9 boards per game. Jefferson is third in scoring, averaging 16.9 points and a team-best 8.8 rebounds per contest.

Utah averages 100.8 points per game while Boston averages 99.4 points. However, the Celtics are first in the NBA in point allowed, giving up a mere 92.1 points per contest. The Jazz are 15th in points allowed, having given up an average of 98.7 points per game.

Boston heads to Washington to take on rookie sensation John Wall and the Wizards in their next game on Saturday at 7 p.m. EST (TV/Radio: CSNNE, CSW, WEEI). Utah faces the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST (TV: FSUT, CSP).