The Utah Jazz used to be a postseason shoo-in. Now, they are on the verge of missing it for a third straight year.
Utah tries to keep pace in the Western Conference when it hosts the New Orleans Hornets in a pivotal matchup at the Delta Center.
The Jazz have lost six of their last eight games and trail the Hornets by one-half game for the ninth seed in the conference. Utah is 2 1/2 games behind Sacramento for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Utah advanced to the postseason every year from 1984 to 2003, but finished seventh in the Midwest Division in 2003-04 and fifth in the Northwest last year to miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1982-83.
The Jazz began a four-game homestand with a win Tuesday over Phoenix, but lost to Washington on Thursday before dropping a 91-89 decision Saturday to Sacramento.
Andrei Kirilenko had his second career triple-double, totaling 15 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks, but the Jazz shot just 55.6 percent from the free-throw line and committed 20 turnovers.
“It went crazy—throwing the ball away, turning the basketball over, not playing like we’re supposed to play,” said Utah coach Jerry Sloan. “You can’t play a streak game like that against a team that knows how to play the pass.”
The Jazz had a chance to tie at the end, but Matt Harpring airballed an 18-foot shot at the buzzer.
“When I let it go, I knew it wasn’t in,” Harpring said. “I was kind of surprised. I had a good look. I just missed it.”
After this game, the Jazz will play seven of their final 12 games on the road.
New Orleans tied a season-high when it was six games over .500 at 31-25 on Feb. 26, but has gone just 1-11 since including five straight road losses.
In those road defeats, the Hornets were outscored by more than 14 points per game and shot 41.5 percent from the field, reaching 100 points just once in a 114-104 decision against Seattle on Feb. 28.
It won’t get any easier down the stretch for New Orleans, which will face Detroit, Dallas, Sacramento, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers on the road in the final two weeks of the season.
“Now the pressure is all on us because we didn’t take care of our business tonight,” said P.J. Brown, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. “The Lakers are a couple of steps ahead of us.”
West, averaging a team-best 17.0 points this season, had 20 points and eight rebounds against the Jazz in a 100-95 win on Feb. 25.