BOSTON — Signs posted in the locker room and a makeshift chapel in the bowels of the TD Garden advertised a pregame sermon to be delivered prior to the Utah Jazz's game against the Boston Celtics.
And the topic seemed like a perfect one for Utah's slumping squad: "If your road is bumpy, become the best bump climber there is."
The Jazz might have considered asking the preacher to print copies of the non-denominational message to read en route to Philadelphia.
Bumpy barely begins to scratch the surface of the Jazz's road conditions Friday night during a rough ride that ended with a 110-86 shellacking by the Celtics.
After smacking into out-of-nowhere potholes while visiting Washington and New Jersey, the Jazz seemingly drove off a cliff in New England.
"It's just a bad week," Jazz forward Paul Millsap said.
Make that worst-regular-season-stretch-in-over-a-year bad.
Utah lost a third consecutive game for the first time in the 2010-11 campaign and — not counting the second-round playoff sweep against the Los Angeles Lakers — for the first time since Dec. 31, 2009 to Jan. 4, 2010.
"Well," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "they showed us what basketball is like tonight."
This was a night when nothing went right for the visitors — from the output of Deron Williams (season-low five points), Al Jefferson (only seven points) and the other starters, to foul problems, effort, execution, passing, looking like they belonged on the same court as the Eastern Conference's top team, all the way down to defense. For space purposes, we'll keep the list to just a few problems.
"I don't even got much to say today," said Williams, who went scoreless in the first half and had a 48-game double-digit streak snapped.
"Just a tough game, couldn't get into a rhythm," D-Will added. "They played better than us, way better than us, harder than us."
Like the Jazz, Williams' problems started early on. He picked up his second foul at the 8:26 mark of the first quarter, and was forced to sit on the bench before he could break a sweat.
Backup point guard Earl Watson came in and did a decent job, matching his season-high with 12 points, but the Jazz simply couldn't contain the Celtics on defense or figure out how to score against them on offense.
Continuing to play sluggishly and out of sync as they have been for quite some time, the Jazz fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first quarter. After snapping out of it for a stretch, Utah even crept back to within five in the second quarter.
But a Williams' 3-pointer was off mark, and the Celtics responded with a 10-point run and later finished off the first half with nine points in a row.
Celtics' fans stayed around for the show — one that included 21 points from Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce's 20-point effort, 9-for-21 3-point shooting and 55.2 percent shooting overall.
The game, however, was over by halftime.
And the slumping and head-scratching continues.
"It's unreal. It's not us. We've got to relax, we've got to come together, try to push through it," Millsap said. "Things like this happen. We've just got to learn how to deal with it and get over it."
The mood in the locker room was somber after this one, and players continued to voice frustrations over the ugly losses to the Wizards and Nets.
Utah shot just 40 percent against the lengthy and defensively stingy Celtics (33-9), committed 21 turnovers and only dished out 19 assists compared to Boston's 31 dishes (a season-high for a Utah opponent).
"It's real bad. It's bad — especially the two losses we had prior to this," Millsap added. "It's a tough situation, but we've got to stay together as a team, as a unit."
Here's how bad it was for Williams. Sixteen different players outscored him — and he only made 1 of 4 field-goal attempts in 23 minutes.
That group, by the way, included Gordon Hayward (11 points), Kyrylo Fesenko (seven points), Von Wafer (seven points) and even unknown Boston backup big Semih Erden (14 points).
"I was excited. I was ready to get out there and play today," said Williams, who had six assists but was bummed about the early foul issue. "If I could've just got a chance, maybe I could've done something. But I didn't have a rhythm early, two quick fouls — two quick calls I should say — took me out of my game and I really couldn't recover."
Watson's dozen points were a team-high, but only three other players — Millsap, Hayward and Andrei Kirilenko — hit double figures in scoring with 11 points apiece for the Jazz.
"We've been a team that's been able to bounce back pretty well. To lose to the two teams we lost to initially to start the trip, those are tough losses," Jazz guard Raja Bell said after scoring just four points.
"And obviously we knew this was going to be a tough one. They're a good team, but to come out and get spanked the way we did — and we did get spanked — that doesn't feel too good."28 comments on this story
Utah, which fell to 27-16, finishes off its four-game East Coast swing with a back-to-back game tonight in Philadelphia, hoping to salvage something out of this bumpier-than-expected trip.
"We've just got to stay together," Jefferson said. "And we've got another one (today), try to finish this road trip off with a win."