Jazz aim for fifth straight win
SALT LAKE CITY — Injuries to key players haven’t held the Utah Jazz back as much as anticipated.
Playing without Rodney Hood over the last two games isn’t slowing down Utah’s offense. Hood, who is the team’s leading scorer, has been sidelined all week with ankle soreness. The Jazz didn’t miss a beat in either game without him so far.
Utah extended its winning streak to four games with a 126-107 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. Now the Jazz will try to make it five in a row when they return home to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.
The Jazz totaled a season-high 38 assists on 49 baskets against the Clippers and are averaging 29 assists per game during their winning streak. They have also made 14 or more 3-pointers in all four games.
It’s a sign of an offense that’s finally sprung to life at a critical time.
“Offensively, I think we’re just moving the ball really well,” forward Jonas Jerebko said, following Tuesday’s win over Denver. “We’re hard to guard when we’re playing that way.”
Utah (11-11) has won its last five games by an average of 26.2 points. The Jazz have eclipsed 120 points in three of those victories.
Strong late game defense has opened the door for those offensive explosions. Utah held Chicago and Denver to 11 fourth-quarter points apiece and used a 22-4 fourth quarter run against the Clippers to break that game wide open.
Derrick Favors has also played a critical role during the last four games in dominating down low to open things up on the perimeter. Favors is averaging 20.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in Utah’s last five wins.
“I just want to basically come out and show everybody I’m back,” Favors said Tuesday. “I’m 100 percent healthy now. I’m just going out there (to) play my game. Be aggressive offensively and defensively. Get my teammates playing with a lot of energy at the start of the game.”
New Orleans (11-10) comes into Salt Lake City looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
The latest setback for the Pelicans, a 120-102 defeat against Minnesota, came about after Anthony Davis got ejected in the second quarter. Davis earned his first career ejection after getting a pair of technical fouls for arguing with officials over calls.
Without Davis on the floor, the Timberwolves dominated on the glass. They finished with a 44-28 rebound advantage over New Orleans.
The absence of Davis offered a blow to New Orleans on offense. He had scored nine straight points and already had 17 at the time of his second quarter ejection.
Minnesota took advantage by shooting 58 percent from the field. The Pelicans held four previous opponents to less than 43 percent shooting before letting the Timberwolves light up the scoreboard.
“It was tough adjusting like that on the fly,” center DeMarcus Cousins said following the game. “We should have done a better job of regrouping, gathering ourselves and finishing the game as a team.”
A full game spent defending Davis and Cousins should offer a major challenge to the Jazz. The interior duo combine for 50.7 points, 23.5 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 3.3 blocks per game. Both players rank in the top 15 in the league in points, blocks and rebounds.
Utah swept the season series against New Orleans a year ago. The Jazz have won four straight games over the Pelicans and haven’t lost to them at home since falling 104-94 on Dec. 16, 2015.