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Celtics notebook

Bump in road hard to get over

Lone loss to Suns still rankles some

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / November 11, 2009

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WALTHAM - In sports, teams often consider themselves only as good as they were in their last game. But the Celtics are not encouraged or motivated by their 86-76 victory over the New Jersey Nets last Saturday, their seventh win in eight games.

Instead, the Celtics are looking back to Friday’s game, a 110-103 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

“It’s hard to be disappointed with 7-1,’’ guard Ray Allen said. “But, obviously, we’d like to be 8-0 right now. That’s a standard we set for ourselves. It seemed as though in this break, these last three days, we were all disappointed with the one game that we lost. And that’s how we practiced - like that was the game that we wanted to build on and get better off of.

“The games we won, we played well. When you play well, you have a tendency not to learn anything - not as much as you learn when you play bad or lose the game. That’s where we are - even though we won a game afterwards, we still look back at the Phoenix game we lost.

“We would also like to get better offensively, execute better. Defensively, we had some miscues. All that stuff, we talked about, things we can get better. These last two days, that’s what we focused on and [yesterday] more on Utah.’’

The Celtics, who host the Jazz tonight, have had problems against Western Conference opposition this season, defeating New Orleans (97-87) and Minnesota (92-90) and losing to the Suns.

“It’s been good for us to get back to practice, to get back to the flow of things,’’ Paul Pierce said. “We got a little bit of rest and got to really fine-tune a number of things we struggled with in the last three games. So, hopefully, we can take care of business at home.

“Just some little things, I think we had some slippage, teams shooting 50 percent, scoring 100 points, that’s something the Boston Celtics just don’t do.’’

After playing eight times in 12 days, the Celtics had two days of practice. Much of the time was spent on pick-and-roll defending, and the Celtics are expecting a pick-and-roll overdose from Utah.

“We’re a defensive-minded group,’’ Pierce said. “So, it’s all about getting back to things - get our pick-and-roll coverage back to where we want it to be, and also offensive execution. We’re still building, it’s still a process, and we still have a ways to go to where we want to be.’’

Said Rasheed Wallace, “We just got a little sloppy in our execution, especially in that Phoenix game down the stretch. I think that’s where they won. They executed their plays better than we did and that’s what wins games, down the stretch. We came in and worked on a few things and we’ll be ready to go.’’

The focus on defense will be Rajon Rondo going against Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who leads Utah with 21.4 points and 10.7 assists per game.

“We’ve all got to help on the pick-and-rolls,’’ Allen said. “Deron Williams has the ball in his hands quite a bit, so we have to give Rondo a lot of help. In transition, they like to run, and they are great off the ball.’’

Scalabrine hurting
Forward Brian Scalabrine (back spasms) missed practice and will likely be out for tonight’s game and Friday’s contest against Atlanta . . . Bill Walker (knee surgery) worked out with the first team “because we were so low on bodies,’’ coach Doc Rivers said. Tony Allen (ankle) and Glen Davis (right hand) are also out. “The key for us is, the end of the season is not now,’’ Rivers said. “We just have to keep getting better. We love our start, but we want to have a great finish. To do that, we just have to keep working and keep getting better.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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