After missing the Utah Jazz’s home opener last week, Al Jefferson has looked solid in his first two games back.
Jefferson and the Jazz seek to win their 10th consecutive home meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
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While Utah (2-3) is rebuilding after a losing season around young talent like Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, veterans such as Jefferson remain the biggest contributors for now.
Jefferson is averaging 16.5 points and 8.0 rebounds through his first four games of 2011-12. After sitting out Friday’s home opener – a 102-99 win over Philadelphia – with an inflamed right ankle, he had 21 points and 11 rebounds in a loss at San Antonio on Saturday and 22 points and six boards in a 94-90 win over New Orleans on Monday.
Both of Utah’s victories have come at home, while it’s dropped its three road games by an average of 19.0 points.
With Jefferson drawing plenty of attention from opposing defenses, Devin Harris took advantage in the win over the Hornets, finishing with 19 points and five assists.
“With Al playing the way he’s playing, he’s going to command a double team,” Harris said. “And you’ll get open shots on the weak side. Playing through him is working for us.”
Harris had 19 points in the victory over the 76ers as well, but he’s averaged 7.7 points while shooting 36.4 percent on the road.
The Jazz would seem to have an excellent chance to improve to 3-0 at home against Milwaukee (2-2), which has dropped its last nine visits to Utah and 11 of 13 overall in the series.
The Bucks are also 0-2 on the road overall this season after losing 91-86 at Denver on Monday. Milwaukee led by six points after three quarters but got outscored 23-12 in a horrendous fourth, shooting 5 of 22 over the final 12 minutes.
Point guard Brandon Jennings, who came in averaging 22.7 points, finished with 12. He also had a season-high six turnovers and a season-low three assists.
It was a disappointing effort to begin a five-game road trip for the Bucks, who have struggled to protect leads in all four of their games. They blew a 14-point advantage in their season opener, a 96-95 loss to Charlotte on Dec. 26.
It didn’t help Monday that the Bucks were without starting shooting guard Mike Dunleavy, who didn’t make the trip to Denver because of an undisclosed illness. Carlos Delfino started in his place and finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“We didn’t play very well. We kind of threw the ball all over the place,” coach Scott Skiles said. “We gave ourselves a chance but we missed layups and we missed open shots.”
Milwaukee gets an off day Wednesday before concluding its road trip with three games in four nights.