The Utah Jazz made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons in 2016-17 and a return trip the postseason is not looking like a strong probability the last few weeks. The Jazz have dropped seven of their last eight games after being thumped by 28 points last time out and things don’t get any easier Thursday night when they host the surging San Antonio Spurs.
Utah turned the ball over 18 times and shot 35.6 percent from the field in a 107-79 loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday to finish a 1-5 road trip. “We started the game like we didn’t really believe we could win,” Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha told reporters. “It was one of those nights. At the same time, we can’t say that every time we get blown out. I think it’s one of those games we have to look back on and see what we didn’t do right.” San Antonio rested forward Kawhi Leonard and point guard Tony Parker on Wednesday, but it grinded out a 93-91 victory at Portland for its seventh win in the past nine contests. Leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge recorded 22 points while making a key block in the final seconds of the victory, and boasts four double-doubles in the last nine games for the Spurs.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, CW35 (Utah)
ABOUT THE SPURS (22-10): Leonard has averaged 10.7 points and drained 14-of-28 shots from the field while playing three of the last five games after missing the first 27 of the campaign with a quad injury. Parker is averaging 8.4 points in nine games this season and the Spurs welcomed the return of small forward Kyle Anderson on Wednesday and the former UCLA standout had five points in 24 minutes after missing seven games with a knee injury. Center Pau Gasol had 20 points and 17 rebounds against Portland after managing to score 12 combined in the previous four games.
ABOUT THE JAZZ (14-18): Utah was without leading scorer Donovan Mitchell (17.7) on Wednesday due to a toe injury and the rookie guard’s status for the first of a two-game home set is uncertain. Rodney Hood took Mitchell’s place in the starting lineup against Oklahoma City and recorded 17 points after scoring 26 at Houston in the previous game and averages 17.6 overall this season. The Jazz will need more from power forward Derrick Favors, who returned after a one-game absence due to a concussion Wednesday night but is averaging 5.7 points in his last three contests.
1. San Antonio G Patty Mills has connected on 18-of-27 from the field over the last four contests.
2. Utah SG Alec Burks registered 14 points off the bench Wednesday, but is just 9-for-32 from the field in his past four outings.
3. The Spurs have won six of the last eight meetings, but the team split four contests in 2016-17.
PREDICTION: Spurs 106, Jazz 94