Jazz-Celtics Preview

BY foxsports • February 28, 2016

Boston coach Brad Stevens said Utah "hit us in the mouth" following an 18-point loss to the Jazz in the Celtics' first game following the All-Star break.

Stevens' team hasn't been bullied like that since, responding with three wins in four games.

The Celtics look to avenge that ugly loss in Salt Lake City and extend their home winning streak to 11 games in Monday night's rematch with the suddenly struggling Jazz.

Boston (35-25) went into the break as one of the NBA's hottest teams with 10 wins in 12 games but emerged with a clunker. The Celtics shot 37.0 percent and scored 30 points in the paint - 15.1 less than their average which ranks among the league's best - in a 111-93 loss to Utah (28-30) on Feb. 19.

Stevens didn't blame the lackluster effort on any rust from the break but instead said, "I thought they hit us in the mouth and kept hitting us in the mouth for 46 minutes."

The Celtics got back on track with a 20-point win in Denver two nights later, the start of a three-game stretch in which they averaged 118.3 points. The lone blemish over that span was a 124-122 loss in Minnesota on the second half of a back-to-back.

Boston wasn't as sharp offensively Saturday against Miami, shooting 40.6 percent, but showed great resolve by rallying from an early 12-point deficit for a 101-89 win.

''The tide's turned a little bit," guard Evan Turner said. "We got acclimated to each other and found out rotations. We're playing pretty well."

That's certainly been the case in Boston, where the Celtics haven't lost since Jan. 6. They're seeking their first 11-game home winning streak since Jan. 27-March 16, 2013, but Stevens says location shouldn't make any difference as the focus remains simply to play up to their standards.

''That's what's expected of us,'' he said. ''That has been the same message my entire time. You play between the lines.''

Despite having a hard time knocking down shots against the Heat, the Celtics still did a good job of running their offense, finishing with 26 assists to 11 turnovers on 103 possessions.

Since Jan. 12, they lead the NBA with a 2.00 assist-to-turnover ratio and have the league's highest-scoring offense besides Golden State, averaging 112.2 points.

The Jazz averaged 113.0 points on 51.8 percent shooting over a three-game stretch, beginning with the Boston game, but they've been nowhere near as efficient in the last two. After recording a season-low 78 points in an 18-point defeat to San Antonio on Thursday, Utah had 21 turnovers in Saturday's 98-96 loss to Brooklyn. The Jazz combined to go 8 of 37 from 3-point range in those games and have dropped a half-game back of Houston for eighth place in the Western Conference.

Coach Quin Snyder summed up the game against the Nets by saying, "If we had effort, it was sporadic," but he isn't overly concerned about his team regrouping.

"If there is one thing these guys hang their hat on it's playing hard," he said. "There are some games for whatever reason you don't have a lot of juice."

Gordon Hayward bounced back from an 11-point effort against the Spurs with a game-high 27. He had 22 against the Celtics while Derrick Favors scored 23.

Boston All-Star Isaiah Thomas had 25 in the first matchup but scored 12 against Miami - his fewest since a season-low eight versus the Timberwolves on Dec. 21.

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