Jazz-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

After a tough start to their three-game road trip, the surely exhausted Utah Jazz got back on track their last time out.

Continuing their postseason push, however, could prove difficult with a visit to Boston up next.

Coming off a much-needed day off, the surging Jazz conclude their road swing Wednesday night against a Celtics team that's controlled this series at home.

Utah (27-23) has averaged 109.0 points in winning seven of eight to move into the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture. Its only loss over that stretch came in the opener of this trip Sunday, 139-133 to Atlanta in the NBA's first quadruple-overtime game since 1997.

Despite having little time to recuperate, the Jazz bounced back the following night, shooting 51.9 percent from the floor while outscoring New Jersey 58-44 in the paint during a 105-84 victory.

Utah, which led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, saw its advantage cut to three early in the fourth before using an 18-4 run to pull away.

"(Sunday's) game was tough, but we lost and it left a bad taste in my mouth," said center Al Jefferson, who had 19 points and eight rebounds. "The way we could get over that game was to come and win this one, and I think that's what we did.

"This will show you how well we are playing now, to bounce back from (Sunday) night and when (the Nets) made their run and cut it to three, we still stayed on what we were doing and took over the game. That shows you how much we have grown as a team."

Paul Millsap had team highs of 24 points and 13 boards for the Jazz, whose next challenge is to snap their recent woes at Boston.

The Celtics (27-22) have won eight of 11 in the series at home, taking the last three by an average of 17.3 points. Boston has also won three of four against the Jazz overall, including 107-102 in Utah on Feb. 28, 2011, in the most recent matchup.

Winners of a season-high six straight at home, the Celtics are coming off their fourth win in five games, 102-95 at Charlotte on Monday. Boston outscored the NBA-worst Bobcats 33-15 in the first quarter but took just a two-point lead into halftime.

"If we're a quote-unquote defensive team then we have to be better than that," coach Doc Rivers said.

"For us, we have to keep plugging along and keep playing. It is important, but we've still got some games left. Since the All-Star break we haven't played well every night but we're winning some of the games where we don't play well."

With Ray Allen out again due to a sore right ankle, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett picked up the slack. Pierce had a season-high 36 points and 10 rebounds, while Garnett scored 24.

"I think I've been feeling that way for the past couple of weeks now as far as needing to be more aggressive when I have the opportunities within the flow of the offense," said Pierce, averaging 25.5 points on 55.6 percent shooting over the last four games.

Allen, whose career average of 23.9 points versus Utah is tied for his highest mark against any opponent, could return following a three-game absence.

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