For years, just saying the words "Boston Celtics" would strike fear into the hearts of pro basketball players everywhere. From Russell to Cousy to Havlicek to Bird and McHale, the Celtics have been the most successful team in NBA history.

These days the Celtics are but a shell of their former selves, mired among the Miamis and New Jerseys of the league.Two seasons ago Larry Bird retired. Last year Kevin McHale retired. Then this past summer, Reggie Lewis, the Celtics star of the future, died of heart failure.

Nowadays it's names like Radja, Gamble and Brown that are leading the way for the once-mighty Celtics, who make their annual visit to Utah tonight. They play the Jazz at 7 p.m. at the Delta Center.

The Celtics arrive in the midst of a six-game losing streak and an eight-game road losing skid. At 11-16, they are off to their worst start since the pre-Bird era of 1978.

Nevertheless the Jazz won't be overlooking the men in green tonight.

"It's not a game you take lightly by any means," said Jazz guard Jay Humphries, who played a lot of games against the Celtics when he played in Milwaukee. "We know they have a lot of talent. They can sneak up on you."

"They're still a pretty good team," said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. "They've done a great job with the people they've got. Most teams would go straight to the bottom, but they're still competitive."

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The Celtics showed that in their last game Monday night at Phoenix where they jumped out to a 24-10 lead and made 19 of their first 24 shots, before fading in the second half.

Sloan pointed out that the Celtics are a different team than the one the Jazz beat in Boston 12 days ago because they have Robert Parish and Kevin Gamble back.

Dino Radja leads the team with a 14.3 average off the bench, just ahead of Gamble at 14.2 and Xavier McDaniel at 13.8. Guards Dee Brown and Sherman Douglas both average 13.3 while Parish scores 12.5 in the well-balanced lineup.

JAZZ NOTES: Sloan plans to start rookie Bryon Russell at small forward again Wednesday night even though David Benoit is back. Sloan said Benoit will share time with Russell and Tyrone Corbin and could also play some power forward . . . Luther Wright missed practice Tuesday with a partial dislocation of the right shoulder and is doubtful for tonight's game. He suffered the injury Monday, but dressed for the Minnesota game and found it had stiffened up Tuesday . . . The Jazz have won six of their last seven and haven't lost at home since the two-point defeat to Houston Nov. 24.

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