Utah Jazz: Jazz have plenty of motivation vs. Boston
BOSTON - It's been 76 days since the Jazz last dropped a game at EnergySolutions Arena, an 18-game home winning streak that now stands just one victory shy of the franchise record.
Don't think for a second the Jazz have forgotten the last team to beat them on their court. That would be the Boston Celtics, who took a 104-98 victory on Dec. 29.
The Jazz can repay the favor tonight as their four-game road trip continues, and Carlos Boozer didn't hesitate after in answering a question about the chance for a little payback.
"Absolutely,'' Boozer said. "I thought we had that game won, and then Paul Pierce took over a little bit. So we're going to have revenge on our minds. Hopefully, we can come back and get that game. They play really well at home, they've been playing well everywhere, really."
The Celtics own the NBA's best record at 51-12 (29-4 at home) and are riding a 10-game winning streak, their longest since 1986. Back in late December, the Celtics beat the Jazz as Pierce scored all 24 of his points in the second half and drove for a layup in the final minute.
Ray Allen also nailed a late three-pointer after nearly losing the ball out of bounds. The Celtics, who have added veterans Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown since then, joined Houston and Portland as the only other teams to win in Utah this season.
"I don't look at that sort of thing,'' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "We've got to play them and we know that they're a very talented team - a great team - and we've got to play our tails off to try to beat them."
The Jazz were left with a 16-16 record after losing to Boston in December, the same day they acquired Kyle Korver from Philadelphia. They have since won 27 of 34 games.
For all their struggles on the road, the Jazz can take some satisfaction in having been the last team to beat the Houston Rockets, whose 20-game winning streak is now tied for the second-longest in NBA history. That victory came on Jan. 27, which, as Deron Williams noted, was far enough in the past to have been before the Super Bowl. Williams said he sent a text message to Rockets guard (and former Illinois teammate) Luther Head after Houston's victory Monday over New Jersey.
Given the streak, Williams was asked if Houston had to be considered a contender even with Yao Ming finished for the season with a foot injury.
"I think you've got to look at them," Williams said. "I mean, it's not like they've just been playing cupcake teams. . . . They beat good teams in there." Houston has beaten New Orleans, Atlanta and Cleveland twice each during the streak.
The long road
With the Jazz just 15-20 on the road this season, Sloan said before Wednesday's game he was at a loss to explain things. He cited the difference between players in his day who were "like clockwork" and those who had good days and bad days.
"If they're replaceable, you replace them,'' Sloan said. "If they aren't, you go with who they are. That's what we try to do and have confidence that they'll fight back somewhere along the line and gain some experience from it."
Jazz at Boston
Where: TD Banknorth Garden
Tipoff: Today, 5:30 p.m.
Radio: 1320 AM, 98.7 FM
Records: Jazz 43-23; Boston 51-12
Last meeting: Celtics, 104-98 (Dec. 29)
Line: Celtics by 6
About the Jazz: They have won only seven games all season on the road against teams (Golden State, Toronto, Detroit, Orlando, Houston, Denver, Phoenix) that presently have winning records. . . . Andrei Kirilenko sat out the Jazz's loss to Boston in December with a biceps tendon injury. Kyle Korver has played just 27 minutes combined the first two games of this trip.
About the Celtics: They cruised past Seattle 111-82 on Wednesday to win their 10th consecutive game. . . . Boston also was the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. . . . Veterans Sam Cassell and P.J. Brown have played in a combined six games since signing with the Celtics.