3/4 Game Preview: Jazz at Celtics
Not long ago, the Boston Celtics probably thought a matchup with the Utah Jazz would help them get closer to a playoff spot.
The Jazz, however, are looking much more formidable in their role as spoiler.
The Celtics will try to avoid becoming the latest victim by extending their home winning streak over the Jazz on Wednesday night.
Boston (23-35) is two games back of Brooklyn and Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, also trailing Indiana by 1 1/2.
After wins over Phoenix, New York and Charlotte, the Celtics' streak ended with a 106-101 loss to West-leading Golden State on Sunday. They weren't even close Tuesday, falling 110-79 at Cleveland in their most lopsided defeat of the season.
"The way we played is not the right way," coach Brad Stevens said. "It's not acceptable. We played individual basketball the whole night, and you can't do that. We were bad."
Boston shot 36.0 percent from the floor - 25.4 from beyond the arc - over the last two games after making 45.1 of its field goals, including 44.2 of its 3s, over the three prior.
Poor shooting hasn't been a problem against the Jazz (24-35), with the Celtics connecting on 49.7 percent and holding them to an average of 87.5 points during six straight home wins in the series.
Boston went 8 for 19 from long range in a 99-90 win at Utah on Jan. 26 for its seventh win in eight overall matchups.
The Jazz, though, have been a much better team lately, limiting opponents to 85.4 points per game during a 7-2 stretch that includes five wins over teams currently in playoff position.
Utah notched another impressive victory Tuesday, beating Southwest Division-leading Memphis 93-82 for its first three-game win streak of the season. Rudy Gobert continued his strong play with 15 points and a career-high 24 rebounds to put the Jazz in position for their first four-game run since winning five in a row March 25-April 1, 2013.
Gobert has provided Utah with an inside presence after Enes Kanter was dealt to Oklahoma City last month. The second-year center is averaging 10.7 points and 12.8 rebounds in six games since being inserted into the lineup.
"Rudy is a presence," coach Quin Snyder said. "He gets a lot of second-chance points which is important. He dominated the glass, and he contests."
Derrick Favors has played a key role during Utah's three-game run, averaging 19.3 points on 62.9 percent (23 of 35) from the field and totaling 28 rebounds.
Boston could use a bounce-back performance from guard Isaiah Thomas, who had 11 points while going 4 for 13 from the floor Tuesday. He was averaging 21.8 points through his first five games with the Celtics after being acquired from Phoenix last month.
Thomas, though, has 10 points in each of his last three games against Utah, shooting 30.3 percent (10 for 33).