GAME PREVIEW (via STATS LLC)
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 1.5 games.
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.
THE BIG STORYLINE (via Chris Forsberg)
The Jazz are playing some inspired ball lately and, for a Celtics team that's really struggled shooting the ball the past 6+ quarters, it's not the ideal to bump into coming off Boston's worst loss of the season. Over the last 10 games, the Jazz own a league best defensive rating of 93.4. That's 3.6 points better than the nearest competitor (Milwaukee, 97.0) and nearly 10 points better than Boston (103.3) in that same span. The Jazz, with their interior protection, are going to entice Boston to shoot those perimeter jumpers that haven't fallen since the first half of Sunday's game against the Warriors. Boston absolutely has to push the pace and find easy buckets in transition. The Jazz don't score with much efficiency and turn the ball over often. But their defense and rebounding has given them a chance to compete most nights recently.