Just one week ago, the Utah Jazz appeared to be dead in the water as they continued to slip and slide out of the Western Conference playoff chase. Three wins in a row later, the Jazz are back in the eighth slot in the West, and they will be looking for their fourth straight win when they welcome in Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.
Utah notched their third win in a row on Friday with a 105-95 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Jazz trailed by six midway through the fourth quarter, but finished the game on a 19-3 win to secure the victory. Much of the damage was done by Mo Williams, who scored 12 of his game-high 28 points during the run. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap also played well, with each player going over 20 points.
The Jazz have been excellent at home this year, as they sport a 26-9 record at EnergySolutions Arena. Utah has also had plenty of success against Williams, who is 0-3 against his former team since being traded to the Nets in February 2011. Williams struggled mightily in his last trip to Utah, going just 3 of 15 from the field. He was also booed every time he touched the ball, so expect another less-than-kind reception for the star point guard.
Brooklyn will be looking to bounce back from a rough outing on Friday, as they were trounced, 109-87, by the Ty Lawson-less Denver Nuggets. Reggie Evans had another strong performance with 15 points and 16 rebounds, but the Nets shot just 40.5 percent as a team and were no match for the Nuggets' firepower.
Despite the loss, Brooklyn still holds a comfortable two-game lead over the Chicago Bulls for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Atlantic Division may be out of reach due to the New York Knicks' seven-game winning streak, but grabbing that No. 4 seed and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs would be a nice consolation prize.
This will be the second meeting between the Nets and Jazz this season. Utah won the first one, 92-90, on Dec. 18 in thrilling fashion, despite committing several gaffes in the final minute. The Jazz were able to survive after Gerald Wallace missed a potential go-ahead three and Evans missed the put-back as time expired.
On the injury front, Brooklyn's Joe Johnson is likely out with a foot injury. Johnson had missed the last few games with a right quadriceps contusion, but while that is now feeling better, a sore left heel that bothered him earlier this season is bugging him again. For Utah, Enes Kanter is out with a dislocated shoulder.
With Kanter out of the lineup, more pressure is on Jefferson and Millsap to produce. The duo did just that against the Blazers, and they will need to be big against Evans and Brook Lopez on Saturday. Jefferson and Millsap combined for 28 points and 19 rebounds in the victory over the Nets earlier this season.
Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on ROOT Sports and YES Network.