The Portland Trail Blazers have gotten themselves back into the playoff race in the Western Conference.
Portland looks to match its season-high four-game winning streak when it meets the Utah Jazz for the second time in five days.
The Blazers lost 105-87 at home to the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 24, and following that contest, coach Maurice Cheeks called Portland a “bad team”.
Cheeks is not saying that anymore.
Since that loss, Portland has won seven of eight to move into a tie with Utah for ninth place in the West.
“I think we’re playing good basketball,” Cheeks said Sunday after the Blazers beat the Seattle SuperSonics 95-85 for their third straight win. “The defense has picked up and it’s allowed our offense to flow.”
Zach Randolph had 25 points and 16 rebounds for his 29th double-double of the season, and Damon Stoudamire added 19 points and six assists for Portland, which won a season-best four straight from Jan. 26-31.
“We’re coming together. We’re playing better basketball,” Blazers guard Derek Anderson said. “We’re passing the ball more and being less selfish.”
Portland will be looking to extend its run against a Utah team it beat 87-73 in Salt Lake City on Friday. The loss denied Jazz coach Jerry Sloan his 900th career win, but Utah finally gave him that milestone by beating the Phoenix Suns 96-92 on Saturday.
Carlos Arroyo sank a 3-pointer with 35.2 seconds to play as the Jazz snapped a four-game losing streak.
Sloan, in his 16th season with the Jazz, is the eighth NBA coach to achieve 900 victories. He said, however, his team’s 25th victory of the season was far more important than the 900th of his coaching career.
“I’ve always felt like something like that belongs to our franchise and our coaches rather than to just one individual,” Sloan said, “because I certainly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the guys who work with us.”
Utah returns home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday in its last game before the All-Star break, while Portland hosts the Denver Nuggets on Thursday in its final contest before the break.