The Boston Celtics play host to the Utah Jazz tonight, as both teams look to improve their playoff positioning. Tip-off is scheduled at 7:30 pm ET at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, where the Celtics are the 3.5 point favorite.

The Utah Jazz come into TD Garden in Boston after a convincing victory over the New Jersey Nets. Both the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz almost have identical records and are currently holding the 7th spot in each respective conference. 

These two teams matchup very evenly, but because Boston is at home, NBA betting shops have the Celtics as a 3.5 point favorite and the total is listed at 189.5. The NBA odds had opened with Boston as a four point favorite, but the fact that this line has shrunk just goes to prove how close people think these teams are.

Utah is in a tighter conference, but both teams need this game. Who's up for the task? Will it be the clutch consistent play of all time Celtics great Paul Pierce or the quiet underrated duo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz? Lets look a bit deeper into this matchup and decide where we should place our sports picks.

A contrast in styles

Jazz vs. CelticsThis game features two teams that are polar opposites. The Celtics are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, ranking 3rd in points, allowing at 90.6 while the Jazz are the 6th highest scoring and 4th highest rebounding team in the NBA. It's a matter of which style win's out in the end.

The maturation process

Center Al Jefferson doesn't get much attention because he plays for a small market team in Utah. Jefferson has carved out a very nice career for himself as a member of the Jazz. He leads the team in scoring (19.4 ppg), rebounding (9.3 rpg), and blocks (1.56 bpg). It's been a long road since he was drafted by Boston in the 1st round in 2004 and now Jefferson returns against a team that's on the decline. When he was a Celtic, he was a "young buck", but now AJ is in his prime in his 7th season in the league and the Celtics will have to give him major attention defensively.

Jefferson's March production has been as massive as his 289 pound frame. For the month of March, he's averaging 20.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 blocks. 

The Butler did it 

Should I say Gordon Hayward, the Butler graduate, has turned into a clutch player for the Jazz lately. I know folks, it's a corny joke, but there's nothing corny about a guy that came from a college that was known for upsetting teams in the NCAA Tournament. He has made the transition to the pro game quite nicely and will continue to produce for this team. 

In his last 5 games, Hayward is averaging 14 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.4 steals. Except for his shooting efficiency, Gordon Hayward has really elevated his game, and the Jazz lwill look for him during crucial parts of the game. Hayward doesn't shy away and usually delivers. Expect a "blue collar" like performance out of Hayward as he has youth on his side and will be a handful for the aging Celtics to cover. 

The most underrated player in the NBA over the last decade 

I am willing to go to this extreme simply because I believe this to be true. Paul Pierce might not average 27 points per game, but when do you ever see Pierce not deliver a timely bucket? Whenever a game comes down to one play for Boston, they put the ball in the hands of number 34, and most of the time the Celts come up on the winning end.

Pierce has the uncanny ability of not being flustered by any situation. He can shoot, rebound, and pass the ball, but with Paul Pierce, it's not about the numbers, it's about how many times that he's bailed Boston out of an adverse situation. We always hear the names Kobe, Lebron, Howard, and Wade, but I feel that Pierce should be added to this list. 

In his last game, Pierce came up big with 36 points and 10 rebounds. As this guy get's older, he retains his playing ability. Look for another big game out of Paul Pierce. 

The Big Ticket 

Jazz vs. Celtics

Kevin Garnett is another Celtic veteran that has been able to retain his playing ability. For a time, it seemed like Garnett was on the decline, but for the last couple of seasons he's been stronger than ever. He was the first player of the new generation to skip college and he's been schooling the opposing players on the court ever since he was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

There's nobody that plays with more fire and passion than KG, and he is one of the main reasons why Boston has one of the best defenses in the NBA. Saying that, I think that Garnett will have his hands full tonight, and this game will come down to the guard play of Rondo and Pierce.

Tossing a coin?

Picking a winner in this game will be a true task, as both teams are very evenly matched and very gamed. When it comes to placing my NBA picks, I look for this to be a defensive battle and the total is slightly high at 189.5. Don't wager you mortgage money on this game, but you can feel safe in making a nice sized bet on the under.

NBA pick- Boston/Utah Under 189.5