Hawks-Jazz Preview

After finishing a perfect four-game road trip with an impressive

comeback, the Utah Jazz may be returning home as the NBA’s hottest

team.

In Salt Lake City, the Atlanta Hawks have been ice cold for more

than 17 years.

The Hawks will have a tough task Monday night if they hope to

end their 15-game losing streak at Utah, which can grab a share of

the Northwest Division lead with a fifth consecutive win.

Even a 25-point second-half deficit couldn’t derail the

short-handed Jazz, who beat Portland 93-89 in overtime Sunday for

their 17th win in 19 games, putting an exclamation mark on a trip

that included victories at Houston and New Orleans.

“We fought back,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “A lot of teams

probably wouldn’t have done that being down 25.”

Boozer tied the game at the end of regulation with a putback and

finished with 22 points and a career-high 23 rebounds, giving

himself six double-doubles in seven games since returning from a

calf injury.

“He’s so strong,” Portland’s Marcus Camby said of Boozer. “You

can’t take away from his physical gift he has out there, his knack

for getting the basketball.”

Even though Utah (36-19) shot below 40 percent from the field

Sunday for the first time since a 91-89 loss at Memphis on Jan. 8,

the Jazz have still hit 50.9 percent of their shots during the 17-2

stretch since that defeat, vaulting up the standings to third place

in the Western Conference.

They trail first-place Denver by one-half game in the

division.

Atlanta (34-20) was on the opposite side of a big comeback

Sunday, blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter advantage in a 108-104

loss at Golden State, and the Hawks hope they’re not headed in the

wrong direction after dropping three of four.

The Warriors took the lead in the final minute on a free throw

that resulted from Jamal Crawford’s technical foul.

“We just fell apart,” Hawks point guard Mike Bibby said. “We’re

up 20 points. A team of our caliber shouldn’t lose that game. It

happened, but we can’t let it happen too much.”

Orlando’s win over Cleveland earlier in the day helped drop the

Hawks 2 1/2 games out of first in the Southeast Division. A big

reason for Atlanta’s stumble has been its recent woes on the road,

where the team has dropped the last two and eight of 12.

Salt Lake City isn’t a promising place for the Hawks to end

their four-game trip. They haven’t won in Utah since Feb. 13, 1993,

when Dominique Wilkins scored 43 points in Atlanta’s 121-112

victory.

The skid continued with a 108-89 drubbing one year ago

Tuesday.

Atlanta will hope to harness some momentum from its 96-83 home

win over the Jazz on Dec. 18. The Hawks held Deron Williams to a

season-low two points on 1-of-8 shooting, prompting the point guard

to apologize to Utah’s fans and admit he “played like crap.”

Boozer had just six points.

“Whatever their scheme was, (it) worked,” Boozer said.

While the Jazz hope to get Mehmet Okur back after he missed the

last two games due to the birth of his son, they may be without

Andrei Kirilenko, who left Sunday’s win due to back spasms.

Kirilenko has shot 60.4 percent from the field since regaining a

starting role Jan. 11.