Jazz aim for sixth straight win in meeting vs. Wizards
SALT LAKE CITY — Navigating a tough schedule while missing your leading scorer and your top defender isn’t a formula for success for most NBA teams.
The Utah Jazz are going off script and finding ways to win even while Rodney Hood (ankle) and Rudy Gobert (knee) remain sidelined with injuries.
Utah has won five straight and six of its last seven and looks to get another win Monday when it hosts the Washington Wizards.
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Keeping up the winning ways won’t be easy during December with a slate that includes road and home games against the likes of Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Oklahoma City, Golden State and San Antonio. The Jazz are embracing the challenge ahead.
“It’s ominous, but I don’t want to go into it like we are evacuating for a hurricane,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “We’ve got to stay strong, buckle up and try to play well.”
One factor driving Utah’s fearless attitude and recent success is a resurgence of veterans like Derrick Favors and Alec Burks and a continued emergence of rookie Donovan Mitchell. All three players have stepped up to push the Jazz back over .500 at 12-11.
Favors and Burks are finally healthy and showing what they can do at full strength. Favors is averaging 18.6 points on 73.1 percent shooting from the field, 9.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists during Utah’s winning streak. Burks is emerging as a reliable sixth-man, averaging 18.0 points on 55.9 percent shooting in the same stretch.
Mitchell is exceeding all expectations.
He’s averaging 21.8 points and 4.6 assists in the team’s last five games and set a Jazz rookie scoring record against New Orleans on Friday, dropping 41 points in a 114-108 victory.
Favors credits Utah’s coaching staff with molding players into possessing a healthy and competitive mindset when their number is called.
“They just keep us ready,” Favors said. “They tell us to go out there and have fun and play together as a team.”
Gobert may return as soon as Monday night. He went through a light practice on Sunday and is listed as questionable against the Wizards.
Hood also is questionable after missing the last three games.
Washington (12-10) has also found ways to be successful even while point guard John Wall remains sidelined.
Wall has missed four games while getting treatment for inflammation in his left knee. He received platelet-rich plasma injections to reduce inflammation and hasn’t played since posting 31 points on 13-of-26 shooting in a 129-124 overtime loss to Charlotte on November 22nd.
The All-Star guard is scheduled to miss two weeks while getting treatment, although he did some light shooting with the team on Saturday.
Washington has fared better than expected during his absence. A 109-91 win over Detroit on Friday night marked the team’s third win in six games without Wall on the court.
“That gives us some confidence going on a five-game road trip,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s not going to be easy. Don’t know when he’s going to come back. He’s doing his rehab with our staff.”
Otto Porter. Jr. has stepped up in Wall’s absence, averaging 17.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals over the last four games. Porter’s defense and scoring ability has helped anchor the Wizards through this turbulent stretch. He has the best steals to turnover ratio (2.00) of any NBA player this season.
Porter will need help if Washington hopes to get its first road win against Utah since 2015. Bradley Beal is the most likely candidate after averaging 24.7 points per game in November. Bell struggled against the Pistons, scoring just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting and coughing up seven turnovers.
The Jazz swept the series against the Wizards last season and have beaten Washington three straight times overall.