Preview: Heat host optimistic Jazz as star guard Donovan Mitchell returns to health
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 5:30 p.m.
MIAMI — The Utah Jazz started Saturday morning with an 11-12 record and as one of seven NBA teams within one game of each other in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Jazz, who visit the Miami Heat on Sunday night, can’t be blamed for optimism because of several factors: The return to health of their star guard Donovan Mitchell, a modest two-game win streak and the acquisition Thursday of one of the best three-point shooters in NBA history — Kyle Korver.
“I’m just not going to overreact, OK?” Snyder said. “We’re going to keep playing, and we have to play (better) defense.”
Snyder wasn’t pleased with the 111 points allowed to the Hornets, who shot 49.5 percent from the floor and had three scorers with at least 20 points.
But the Jazz, who entered the week 29th in the NBA in three-point-shooting percentage (31.9), have certainly improved in that area thanks to their trade for Korver.
In fact, Korver, who played for Utah from 2007-2010 and is fourth in NBA history in 3-pointers made, helped change the Jazz shooting mojo during his first game back with the team Friday.
He scored 14 points and made 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. His marksmanship rubbed off on the Jazz, who made 40 percent on 3-pointers to earn the win.
“This,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of Utah, “was not a team that was thriving at the 3-point line.”
Of course, that was before the Jazz acquired Korver, 37, adding him to a bench crew that includes Jae Crowder.
Utah’s main man is still shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who sat out two games this week because of bruised ribs but returned to score 29 points against the Nets and 30 versus the Hornets.
Meanwhile, the Heat (8-13) has played poorly during the first quarter of this season, losing six straight home games for the first time in a decade.
The Heat snapped that ugly skid Friday with a 106-101 victory over the visiting New Orleans Pelicans, but it was a struggle.
Miami led by as many as 31 points in the second quarter but allowed the Pelicans to get back in the game. With 47.5 seconds left, New Orleans forward Nikola Mirotic had an open look at the top of the key that would’ve tied the score but missed, and Miami held on for the win.
“We can finally walk out of here with a different feeling,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Even so, the Heat allowed Pelicans star Anthony Davis to go off for 41 points, including 19 in the third quarter, which is when the Pelicans made their run.
The Heat have spent the past six games without starting point guard Goran Dragic, who leads the team in assists and is second in scoring. Backup point guard Tyler Johnson has missed the past five games because of a hamstring injury.
In addition, would-be starting shooting guard Dion Waiters has missed the entire season due to an ankle injury, and wing Derrick Jones, who has started four games this since, is out with hamstring issues, leaving the Heat with 10 active players.
With all those injury problems, 6-6 guard Josh Richardson has stepped up, improving his scoring average from a career-best 12.9 last season to a team-high 20.5 at present.
Richardson will likely match up against the 6-3 Mitchell, a second-year pro who leads the Jazz in scoring (21.5).
Another good matchup figures to be Utah’s 7-1, 245-pound center Rudy Gobert against Miami’s 7-0, 265-pounder Hassan Whiteside. Gobert is averaging a career-high 15.5 points to go with 12.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. Whiteside is providing 13.2 points, 13.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks.