The Jazz won their fourth straight by beating the slumping
Celtics 96-91 on Monday night, extending Boston's longest losing
streak of the season to five games.
"We have 12 games left. It really doesn't matter if we win
against the Clippers or Boston. It's just a win, and every game is
important,'' said Matt Harpring, who led the Jazz with 25 points.
"All these are big.''
Karl Malone had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and John Stockton,
who turns 41 on Wednesday, added 17 points and eight assists for
the Jazz. Utah is in sixth place in the Western Conference with 12
games left in the regular season.
Utah shot 50 percent in the second half (16-for-32) and held the
Celtics to one field goal in the final two minutes.
"We had some really good screens and nice shots. It was nice to
see that because we have gone from one extreme to another,'' Utah
coach Jerry Sloan said. "I thought we did a good job defensively,
coming down the stretch, hanging on and getting the win.''
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points and eight rebounds.
Antoine Walker added 20 points for Boston, which has lost five
straight for the first time under coach Jim O'Brien. In a week and
a half, the Celtics have gone from being 10 games above .500 and
among the conference leaders to being tied with Orlando for sixth
in the East.
"We need to regather ourselves and get back to playing Celtic
basketball,'' Walker said. "Worrying about our playoff position
kind of threw off our focus.''
The Celtics were playing without starting center Tony Battie,
who sat out with a sore left knee, and guard Tony Delk, whose
father died Sunday. Boston wrapped up a four-game road trip and will try to end its skid Wednesday against Golden State.
Pierce said the positive in Monday's loss was that the Celtics
played better than they had during the skid.
"If we play like that, I can take getting the loss. It's a
little frustrating,'' Pierce said. "We realize that we played hard
basketball and unselfish. That's kind of what's going to drive
Pierce put the Celtics ahead 88-86 on a 3-pointer with 2:56
left, but Boston didn't score again until J.R. Bremer made a
3-pointer in the final seconds, after the Jazz had sealed it.
Andrei Kirilenko started an 8-0 Utah run with two free throws
that tied it 88-all with 2:38 left. Kirilenko added another free
throw, then Harpring hit a 21-foot jumper to put the Jazz up by
three. Harpring added another jumper in the lane and hit two free
throws with nine-tenths of a second left.
"Matt came up and made a couple great shots,'' said Stockton,
who fed Harpring in the lane for his second jumper. "Guys need to
set good screens and that's what you saw those last two plays.''
The Jazz made their first six shots of the third quarter,
starting the period with a 15-3 run. They led 73-68 entering the
The game was delayed twice in the first quarter when the
shot clock in front of the Celtics' bench went out. ... Utah center
Greg Ostertag fouled out midway through the fourth quarter. He also
drew a technical with 7:43 to go after arguing a call. ... The
Celtics dropped to 38-33 -- the first time they were just five games
above .500 since a loss to Seattle on Feb. 5.