NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 24th (All times eastern)
New Orleans Hornets (40-31) at Utah Jazz (36-36), 9 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Utah's chances of a fifth straight playoff appearance seem bleak with 10 games remaining on the regular season schedule.
With a four-game hill to climb for the eighth and final postseason spot in the Western Conference, the Jazz look to feed off of the home crowd when they begin the final homestand of the season tonight versus the New Orleans Hornets at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz will also host the Mavericks, Wizards and Lakers, and are 20-15 in Salt Lake City. They have won three in a row at home.
Utah lost its third straight game overall and fifth in seven tries with Wednesday's 106-94 setback at Oklahoma City in the finale of a three-game trek, as Al Jefferson muscled his way to 32 points and 12 rebounds in defeat.
"We made too many mistakes and they took advantage of them," said Jefferson. "You know, we can point fingers, but at the end of the day we have to put this behind us and keep moving."
Paul Millsap scored 18 points for the Jazz, who did not have the services of veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko in the second half due to a bruised knee. Devin Harris missed the Thunder game because of a hamstring injury and is questionable for tonight's game. Kirilenko is also listed as questionable. Harris was acquired in the deal that sent Deron Williams to New Jersey and is averaging 14.6 points and 5.2 assists in 13 contests with the Jazz.
Rookie Derrick Favors, also acquired in the Williams trade, did not play and is bothered by a sprained left ankle. Favors is questionable Thursday. The Jazz, who haven't missed the playoffs since the 2005-06 campaign, could use some inside help for the upcoming stretch towards the postseason.
The Hornets are seventh in the Western Conference -- one game behind Portland and a half-game ahead of Memphis -- and will begin a three-game road trip Thursday against the Jazz, Suns and Lakers. They are 16-20 on the road.
New Orleans just went 3-2 on a five-game homestand culminated with Saturday's 89-85 loss to the Boston Celtics in the Big Easy. David West ended with 32 points and eight rebounds while Marco Belinelli tied a career-high with five three-pointers en route to 23 points for the Hornets.
Hornets All-Star guard Chris Paul handed out 15 assists, but missed all nine of his shots from the floor and sank four free throws. Paul entered the night averaging 28.7 points and 11.3 assists in his previous three. He failed to hit a field goal for the fourth time in his career.
"It's going to be hard for us to win (if I play like that)," Paul said. "I've got to do better. We lose by four points, and I play a game like that (doesn't help the team)."
The 2010-11 series between the Hornets and Jazz is tied at a game apiece, with each team holding serve as the host. Utah has won 14 of the past 18 meetings with New Orleans, losers in two straight and 10 of 13 at the Jazz.
03/24 10:42:41 ET