Blakely's Celtics-Jazz preview

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Blakely's Celtics-Jazz preview

BOSTON After a ho-hum start, the Boston Celtics are making the Garden look more and more like the Jungle of past years when teams came in knowing that a loss, regardless of how well they played, was the most likely outcome.

Even though Boston's home record (17-8 at the Garden, 27-22 overall) is nothing to get overly excited about, they have reeled off six straight wins at home - their longest home winning streak of the season.

Tonight they face a Utah (27-23) team that has been a completely different - and very beatable - club when away from home.

In fact, the difference between Utah's record at home (19-6) and on the road (8-17) is the largest in the NBA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team finished with that wide a disparity was the Jazz during the 2007-2008 season in which they were 37-4 at home and 17-24 on the road.

Being at home will certainly be a factor weighing in the C's favor tonight. Here we'll take a look at a few other factors that may have an impact on tonight's outcome as the C's seek a victory which will put them back in a tie with Philadelphia for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Celtics will do what they can to make the Jazz a jump-shooting team, which is clearly one of the team's biggest weaknesses. Utah has connected on 30.9 percent of their 3s this season, which ranks No. 29 in the NBA. When you take into account that Boston has the NBA's top 3-point shooting defense - opponents are shooting just 30.6 percent on 3s against the Celtics - it could be a long night for the Jazz if they're forced to play primarily from the perimeter.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Al Jefferson: Kevin Garnett has seen his share of centers with an array of offensive skills, but "Big Al" is right up there with the best of them. He has 21 double-doubles this year, and is averaging 19.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. For Garnett, it will come down to doing what he seems to do most nights - whatever is needed to win. Sometimes that's score, other times it is to rebound or defend. Try door No. 3 tonight. Because the one thing we all know about Al Jefferson he will get his shots up.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce has been on a wicked tear of late, and you can bet the Celtics will look for him early and often tonight. Look for Boston to try and get Pierce the ball on the elbow more or posting up against a smaller defender in C.J. Miles. Depending on how Utah responds to that, Pierce can play the role of low-post scorer or facilitator to the team's perimeter players as well as guards such as Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo cutting to the basket.

STAT TO TRACK: One of the byproducts of Boston playing more "small ball" units, is that they become quite vulnerable to points in the paint. Unfortunately for Boston, that plays right into one of Utah's biggest strengths. The Jazz are scoring 50.2 points per game in the paint, which ranks No. 2 in the NBA. The C's are literally at the other end of the points in the paint spectrum, averaging 34.5 points in the paint per game which is No. 29 - or second-to-last - in the NBA.

Irving takes over in third quarter, Cavs beat Celtics in Game 4, 112-99

Irving takes over in third quarter, Cavs beat Celtics in Game 4, 112-99

CLEVELAND – They had them right where they wanted them.

LeBron James was in foul trouble.

Kyrie Irving had not yet heated up, and the lead hovered above double figures but seemed oh-so-close to creeping upwards of 20 points if the Celtics did a better job of making open shots in the first half.

Those missed shots, combined with a Kyrie Irving takeover in the third quarter, would prove to be part of the narrative for Game 4 – missed opportunities - as the Cavs rallied for a 112-99 Game 4 win.

Cleveland now leads the best-of-seven series 3-1, with a chance to eliminate the Celtics in Boston on Thursday and advance to the NBA Finals where a well-rested Golden State team will be awaiting them.

Irving led all scorers with a playoff career-high 42 points, 21 of which came in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Boston’s Avery Bradley had 19 points while Jae Crowder (18 points), Al Horford (16), and Kelly Olynyk (15) also finished with double figures scoring.

"He put the team on his back," said Tristan Thompson, regarding Irving's play. "He still has another gear."

Boston spent all of the fourth quarter playing from behind, failing to get that necessary made shot or defensive turnover or stop that they needed to slow down Cleveland’s growing momentum.

And with Irving making a slew of clutch baskets that put Cleveland in control, it was James’ turn to put the game away.

He did just that, finishing with 34 points which included 15 in the fourth quarter.

But for a good chunk of Tuesday’s Game 4 matchup, it looked as though the Celtics were coming back to Boston for Game 5 with the series tied up.

It was an odd game for sure, with nothing being any stranger than LeBron James being whistled for not one, not two, not three, but four personal fouls … in the first half.

The fourth came when he was whistled for an offensive foul against Terry Rozier with 6:46 to play and Boston ahead by 10 points.

With James on the bench, Cleveland managed to play Boston to a standstill as the half ended with the Celtics still leading by 10 points (57-47).

Cleveland slowly crept back in the game in the third, and eventually went ahead 73-72 following a pair of free throws by James with 3:15 to play in the quarter.

The Cavs were able to lead by as many as five points in the third quarter which ended with Cleveland ahead 87-80 as Irving scored the last 14 points for Cleveland which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that would be the final points scored in the quarter.

Cleveland’s strong finish to the third was a striking contrast to how the game began.

Boston got off to its best start in this series after a 3-pointer by Jae Crowder put the Celtics ahead 18-11.

The Celtics went ahead 22-13 after a pair of free throws by Jonas Jerebko and would eventually lead by as many as 16 points.

Meanwhile, James – the man Crowder was defending most of the time early on – had six points in the first quarter on 3-for-7 shooting.

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.