BOSTON — The Jazz have not all forgotten that it was Boston, way back on Dec. 29 of last year, that handed them their last loss at EnergySolutions Arena.

"I thought we had that game won," All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer said. "Then Paul Pierce took over a little bit."

Since that 104-98 defeat, Utah has reeled off 18 straight victories on its home floor — one shy of tying the Jazz's franchise record.

Retribution in that regard against the NBA-leading Celtics, however, will not exactly be first and foremost on Jazz minds tonight.

Certainly not Jerry Sloan's.

"I don't look at that sort of thing," the Jazz coach said after Utah's come-from-behind win Wednesday at Milwaukee. "I just look at we've got to play them, and we know that they're a very talented team, they're a great team, and we've just got to play our tails off to try to beat them."

Proving they can win when away, after all, is much more important to Sloan's 43-23 club these days than recalling who last beat them at home.

Utah's 15-20 travel mark pales in comparison to most of the NBA's Western Conference playoff-position teams, as only Dallas is also sub-.500 at 14-19.

Moreover, with just six away games left including tonight's, the Jazz are one loss away from having a losing record on the road for a seventh straight season.

That follows a span with seven consecutive seasons worth of winning road records.

"We've got to get our confidence up on the road for the playoffs, so we know in the playoffs that when we go on the road we can win a game," Boozer said. "So, that's our goal the rest of the year — to try to win as many as we can, hopefully, win all of them, and go into the postseason with confidence on the road."

Even more disconcerting for the Jazz has to be the fact that their road record against the West's best — the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston, San Antonio, New Orleans, Phoenix, Dallas and Golden State — is just 3-6, as opposed to 7-6 against the conference's current lottery-bound teams.

The flip side to that is how Utah has struggled against the East's least.

The Jazz have losses this season at — gasp — Indiana, New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami and, at Tuesday's start of their current four-game trip, Chicago.

"We had a terrific game at home (last Saturday's win over Denver), and sometimes you get to feeling good about yourself, and that's when you get smacked right between the eyes," Sloan said. "I hate to say that, but that's the lesson you learn in this business."

No wonder Sloan gets so flustered when he tries to pinpoint the cause behind his club's incredible inconsistency.

"That's one of the questions I've always had in this business," the longtime Jazz coach said.

"I played with guys that some days they played better than others. And I've played with guys that just every day they're like clockwork; you know what you're gonna get out of them," he added. "That's the nature, I guess, of some people. If they don't have a good day, then they don't have a good day. So what do you do about it? If they're replaceable, you replace them. If they aren't, you go with who they are."

It's with that in mind, and cast intact, that the Jazz face Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and the already playoff-qualified 51-12 Celtics tonight sensing they can ill-afford yet another road loss.

"You see how tough the West is, and teams aren't losing right now," point guard Deron Williams said, "so we've got to keep on winning."

"It's the Wild West," Boozer added. "For us to stay where we are, or move up, we've got to continue to win games."


Jazz on the road

Utah Jazz (43-23) at Boston Celtics (51-12)

Today, 5:30 p.m.

TV: FSN Utah

Radio: 1320AM, 98.7F


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com