The Jazz look to win for the ninth time in 10 games as they take on the Miami Heat in a matchup of division leaders.
Utah’s strong play has vaulted it atop the mediocre Northwest Division. The Jazz, one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA at just under 43 percent, are connecting at over 49 percent over the last nine games.
The hot streak has coincided with the return of Kirilenko, who missed 10 of the first 26 games due to a sprained right ankle and back spasms. The Russian forward is averaging 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds since his return.
“I think we do believe in the offense now,” Sloan said. “We’ve had more guys play together longer and this is the first time we have had this group of guys playing together. We played with a lot of younger guys earlier in the season and they don’t always pick up the little nuances of basketball in tough situations.”
Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur combined for 48 points as Utah shot a season high 58.8 percent in a 110-102 win Wednesday at Philadelphia.
The Jazz shot 74 percent (20-for-27) and scored 62 points in the second half to wrap up a four-game road trip with three straight wins.
“We are still the same team inside,” Kirilenko said. “Our chemistry is unbelievable; we laugh and have a great time together. I think at a point you will succeed when your team stays together and helps each other.”
Utah will be trying to slow down a Miami attack spearheaded by Dwyane Wade. The explosive guard notched his third career triple-double—and second in two weeks—with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 14 assists in a 117-104 win Friday at Seattle.
“I think he’s the true definition of a great player and you guys should recognize that,” Heat center Shaquille O’Neal said. “I think the recognition of a great player has been lost the last 10, 15 years.”
Wade began the Heat’s seven-game road trip with a triple-double in a loss Jan. 4 at New Orleans. He sat out two nights later in a loss to Phoenix with a bruised left shin before averaging 26 points and 10.7 assists in Miami’s three-game winning streak.
Wade is averaging 31.0 points in three career games against Utah—all Miami wins.
The Southeast Division-leading Heat are averaging 115 points over the last three games, marking the first time they have scored at least 110 points in three straight games.
Miami is 11-5 since coach Pat Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy on Dec. 12.