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Game 42: Celtics vs. Jazz

at TD Garden, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was unhappy with his team's effort in back-to-back road losses against last-place competition this week.

The Jazz surely need to raise their game to have a chance against the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Ending their struggles away from home Friday night will be a tall order against the Boston Celtics, particularly now that Kevin Garnett is back.

This is the halfway point of a five-game road trip for Utah, and the first two stops resulted in losses to the teams closest to Cleveland for the East's worst record.

Following a 108-101 loss Monday in Washington, the Jazz (27-15) allowed seven New Jersey Nets to score in double figures in a 103-95 defeat Wednesday.

It was the fourth loss in five road games for Utah, which hasn't beaten a team with a winning record away from home since defeating Portland on Nov. 20.

"We look like we were lacking effort and our energy doesn't look good to me, even more so in the last couple of games," Sloan said. "Just doesn't seem like great enthusiasm to play."

Deron Williams had 20 points and 10 assists against New Jersey. He's averaging 24.5 points and 10.5 assists over his last four, but had trouble describing the recent struggles for the Jazz, who are tied with Oklahoma City atop the Northwest Division.

"It's just another bad loss," Williams said after Wednesday's defeat. "What else can I say?"

It could be very tough to get things turned around against the Celtics (32-9), who have a three-game lead atop the East and the conference's best home record at 20-3. Their record in Boston is 15-1 when Garnett plays.

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

  • WilliamsWilliamsRondo vs. Williams: Needs no real hype, right? Two of the best point guards in the league and two very different styles. In eight career games against Utah, Rondo boasts a 3-5 record (3-3 as a starter) and, as he goes, so go the Celtics. In last year's visit to Boston, Rondo connected on 7-of-11 shots for 14 points and 11 assists in the Celtics' 105-86 triumph. Out in Utah, he labored through 2-of-7 shooting for six points with six assists and four turnovers in a 110-97 loss. We all know Rondo loves these matchups and it should be fun to see what type of game he produces Friday.

  • Eyes on free throws: Talk about contrasting styles: The Celtics are one of the worst teams in the league at getting to the charity stripe; The Jazz are the team most likely to put an opponent on the line. Something's gotta give. Boston is 14-2 when it shoots 25 free throws or more in a game and Utah allows 28.3 free throw attempts per game.

  • JeffersonJeffersonDon't forget about the frontcourt: Old friend Al Jefferson returns for the first time in a Jazz uniform and he's averaging a modest 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game this season. But don't forget about Paul Millsap, who put together a heck of a night on his last visit to Boston, connecting on 13-of-20 shots for 32 points with 10 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals over 40 minutes.