Already playing shorthanded, the Boston Celtics now might be without second-leading scorer Wally Szczerbiak on Friday as they try to end the longest losing
streak in franchise history in a matchup with the New Jersey Nets.

The Celtics (12-36) have lost 16 straight - the previous team record was 13 - and haven't won at home since beating Denver on Dec. 15. The team has set another dubious franchise record by losing 12 consecutive home games.

A big factor in Boston's slide has been injuries to Paul Pierce, Tony Allen and Theo Ratliff.

Pierce, the team's leading scorer at 26.6 points per game, has been sidelined since mid-December with a foot injury. Any hope of a return before the All-Star break ended after he was hospitalized earlier in the week with an infected left elbow. The Celtics are 2-22 without Pierce.

The news got even worse for Boston in its 91-79 loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday. Szczerbiak, who already had sprained both ankles this season, left the game in the third quarter after re-aggravating his right ankle injury. He had 14 points, his highest-scoring effort in six games since returning to action after missing three weeks.

"I actually thought tonight was the first game Wally looked like he was getting his legs back. He made some shots, we were finding ways," coach Doc Rivers said. "So it's frustrating. It's tough."

Szczerbiak fell to the floor with 3:26 left in the third quarter when he jumped trying to block a shot, only to land on teammate Leon Powe's foot. He is listed as day-to-day by the team.

"Step on your teammate's foot on the bench? What else can go wrong?" Szczerbiak said. "It's like, gee, it's one of those things. ... It's just frustrating, right when I was starting to feel better."

Szczerbiak has missed 18 games this season and hasn't started since Jan. 7. He is averaging 15.5 points.

If Szczerbiak is absent Friday, it places greater pressure on Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes - the team's next two leading scorers at 14.0 and 12.3 points per game, respectively. Jefferson had 13 points and 16 rebounds on Wednesday, while Gomes led the team with 15 points.

Rivers said the injuries won't change his approach.

"I believe in what I believe in offensively and defensively," he said. "And that ain't changing. And I believe it's the right thing, you just have to stick with it."

Boston plays six of its next eight games on the road, including a five-game western swing that begins on Tuesday. The Celtics are 8-16 on the road as opposed to 4-20 at home.

This is the third meeting between Boston and New Jersey (23-27). The Celtics won the most recent matchup, 92-90 on Dec. 9 on a buzzer-beater by Pierce. The win snapped Boston's four-game losing streak to the Nets.

New Jersey snapped its own four-game skid with an 87-85 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Vince Carter scored 22 points, made the go-ahead layup with 7.6 remaining and grabbed a critical rebound on Atlanta's final possession.

The Nets are 3 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors for first place in the Atlantic Division.

"At this point in the season for us, the way things are going, we can't make excuses," Carter said. "Every basket for us counts and every situation counts."

Friday's contest ends the Nets' three-game road trip and a stretch in which they played 13 of 17 games away from home. Following this contest, the team plays seven of its next eight games in New Jersey.


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