A four-game road trip seemed to wear the Utah Jazz down. Their
schedule, though, hasn’t been nearly as grueling as the Washington
In danger of losing three straight for the second time this
season, the Jazz return home Monday night to face a Wizards team
that will continue a grueling stretch.
Utah (42-24) has lost back-to-back games for the first time
since a season-worst three-game skid from Dec. 31-Jan. 4. After
winning their previous four, the Jazz stumbled down the stretch of
Despite shooting 57.9 percent (11 for 19) from 3-point range,
Utah lost 119-111 to Oklahoma City on Sunday night in a matchup of
teams jockeying for playoff position in the Western Conference. The
Jazz are in fourth place, one-half game ahead of the Thunder.
Injuries certainly didn’t help Utah’s cause. Center Mehmet Okur
(back) and forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf) were missing from the
starting lineup, and the pair are questionable for this game.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Jazz forward Carlos
Boozer said. “It happens at this point in the season. We’re all
banged up a little bit, some guys a little banged up more than
Okur was held out after playing a season-high 41 minutes in a
95-87 loss to Milwaukee on Friday night. Kirilenko left that game
in the second half.
Okur and Kirilenko are the team’s third- and fourth-leading
scorers, respectively, combining for 25.0 points and 11.4 rebounds
per game. Paul Millsap started for Okur and C.J. Miles took
Wesley Matthews, who has started 13 straight games since Ronnie
Brewer was traded to Memphis on Feb. 18, is coming off an
outstanding game. The undrafted rookie guard made six 3-pointers
and scored a season-high 29 points.
Matthews is shooting 56.0 percent (14 for 25) from beyond the
arc over his last 11 games. He poses a tough challenge for a
perimeter defense on a team that has gotten little rest.
Washington, which has lost a season-high seven straight, had
Sunday off after wrapping up a stretch of three games in three
nights, including a road game in the middle.
This week wont’ get any easier for the Wizards. After spending
Sunday traveling, they’re playing on consecutive nights, including
a matchup against Denver on Tuesday evening, to open a four-game
Coach Flip Saunders called it “ridiculous” that Washington will
have only one day off at the end of that trip.
“I guess it’s like that commercial,” Saunders said. “‘Give it to
Mikey. He’ll eat it, he’ll do anything.'”
Saunders has had plenty to be upset about in his first season
with the Wizards. JaVale McGee’s effort raised Saunders’ ire
following a 109-95 loss to Orlando on Saturday.
The second-year center, starting for the 13th time this season,
had five points on 1-of-6 shooting and three rebounds – all on the
“You can’t have a starting center not get a defensive rebound,”
Saunders, though, has to be pleased with the development of
6-foot-11 Andray Blatche, who had 32 points. Blatche is averaging
24.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in 14 games since joining the starting
Blatche will likely be matched up with Boozer, who is averaging
22.4 points and shooting 65.7 percent in seven home games against
Utah and Washington each won at home in last season’s series.
The Jazz have won 18 of 21 at home versus the Wizards.