The way they are going the Utah Jazz
won’t have to worry about being knocked out in the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers
for a fourth straight year.
The Jazz are far more a lottery team than a serious playoff contender minus Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams.
Utah hosts Denver Thursday at 7:35 p.m. PT on TNT having lost 16 of its past 21 games. Preceding this game on the same network is the battle between the Magic and Heat in Miami.
The Jazz have dropped six consecutive games at home, their worst home skid since 1982. They have covered only 38 percent (12-19) of their home contests this season.
Despite being in contention for a postseason berth at 32-29, the Jazz are a team in transition. It would be a surprise if they did make the playoffs.
Utah has finished at or above .500 in all but one of the last 27 seasons. That mark is in jeopardy, too.
Since Sloan’s abrupt retirement after 23 seasons, Utah has lost five of six games under coach Tyrone Corbin. The Jazz are 1-2 since Williams was dealt to New Jersey for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors.
Williams has averaged 18 points and 10 assists three straight years while being in the argument for best point guard. He had the most 20-point, 10-assists game of any player last season.
The jury remains out on Harris, a speedy point guard who has been injury prone. Favors is a 6-foot-10 rookie forward averaging 6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds.
Harris and Favors made their home debut this past Monday against Boston. The Celtics won, 107-102, covering as 4 ½-point favorites. The combined 209 points went ‘over’ the 188 ½-point total.
Harris scored 19 points while dishing off five assists. Favors contributed nine points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in 15 minutes.
Al Jefferson had 28 points and pulled down a season-high 19 rebounds. Jefferson now is Utah’s best player. He’s coming off a strong February where he averaged nearly 24 points a game, nine rebounds per game and shot 55 percent from the field.
The Jazz have been hard hit by injuries. Most of their walking wounded are back with the exception of Mehmet Okur, sidelined with a lower-back problem.
If you discount a 116-point performance against Detroit two games ago, the Jazz are averaging 95.1 points in their last seven games. That’s four points less per game than their season average.
Denver isn’t about Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups anymore. Instead the Nuggets are about interchangeable parts following a blockbuster deal with New York that brought them Danilo Gallinari and point guard Raymond Felton.
Gallinari scored 30 points in a 107-106 overtime road loss to Portland this past Friday, but suffered a broken left big toe in the game. He’s expected to be out at least another week.
The Nuggets were 3-1 through Tuesday since dealing Anthony and Billups to the Knicks. Denver committed a season-low six turnovers in a 100-90 home win versus Atlanta this past Monday covering as 6 ½-point favorites. The combined 190 points dipped ‘under’ the 202-point total.
Denver currently is leading the NBA in scoring at 107.3 points per game and is fourth in field goal percentage at 47.3 percent. Nene is No. 1 in the league in field goal percentage making 62.5 percent of his shots.
The Nuggets had won and covered five in a row entering their Wednesday night home matchup versus Charlotte.
Denver plays seven of its next eight games on the road starting with the matchup against the Jazz.
The ‘over’ has cashed in 13 of the Nuggets’ last 19 games. The Nuggets ranked 23rd defensively allowing 104.5 points per contest. Utah is 18th on defense yielding 100.2 points a game.