Game Preview: Celtics at Jazz
Mired in a losing streak, the Boston Celtics are aiming to close their road trip on a positive note while facing a Utah Jazz team they've had success against in recent years.
With Rajon Rondo expected back in the lineup, the Celtics hope to snap a four-game skid by picking up their seventh straight victory over the Northwest Division-worst Jazz on Monday night.
Boston has followed a promising 4-1 stretch with its fifth losing streak of at least four games. Playing without three starters in a 105-98 loss to Sacramento on Saturday, the Celtics dropped their third straight on this four-game trip.
The frustration in the physical contest seemed to boil over late in the fourth quarter, when Gerald Wallace and coach Brad Stevens were ejected with 35 seconds remaining.
"It was a long game, a lot of possessions and a lot of things happened," Stevens said. "We still had a chance to win."
Jeff Green finished with 29 points despite missing 18 of 25 shots, and Kris Humphries added 19 points and eight rebounds while filling in for Jared Sullinger in the middle.
Green is averaging 26.4 points and shooting 40.0 percent (22 of 55) from 3-point range over his last seven road games, but he's totaled 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting in his last two visits to Salt Lake City.
The Celtics have scored 102.7 per game with a 48.4 field-goal percentage during their six-game winning streak in this series, though they've averaged 94.7 points on 39.1 percent shooting on this trip.
They could get a boost with the return of Rondo, who sat out Saturday to rest his surgically repaired knee in the tail end of back-to-back games. The four-time All-Star has averaged 10.2 points, 7.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 12 contests.
Sullinger and Avery Bradley, however, aren't expected back against the Jazz. Sullinger will have to go through the league's protocol after suffering a mild concussion Friday, while Bradley has missed 11 of 14 games with an ankle injury.
The short-handed Celtics may be able to find open looks against a Utah team that has given up an average of 109.3 points over a three-game skid that followed a season-best three-game win streak.
The Jazz allowed Minnesota to shoot 51.2 percent, including 11 of 23 from 3-point range, in a 121-104 home loss Saturday.
Center Enes Kanter finished with 25 points while making 11 of 14 shots in place of Derrick Favors, who is questionable with a hip injury. Kanter has averaged 22.7 points and 9.0 boards in his last three starts, but the Jazz have lost 24 of 25 when he's been in the starting five this season. They've also dropped all nine games without the defensive-minded Favors. "We're just waiting for D-Fav," Kanter said. "He's a huge part of our team."
Gordon Hayward, averaging a team-high 16.0 points, has struggled with 11.2 points per game on 29.8 percent shooting over his last 11. However, he's totaled 54 points and shot 52.8 percent in his last two games against the Celtics.
Boston has dropped 17 consecutive road games versus Western Conference opponents since a 110-107 overtime win over Utah on Feb. 25, 2013. The Jazz have won six of 10 home meetings against the East this season.