Both teams are trying to make up ground on the Sacramento Kings, who hold the eighth and final spot in the West. Utah is in ninth place, 1 1/2 games behind Sacramento, while New Orleans is in 10th place, one game behind Utah.
The two teams also have one game in hand on Sacramento, which has three games remaining.
Utah has won four straight games, most recently a 104-83 rout Wednesday of Denver in which the Jazz outscored the Nuggets 33-20 in the fourth quarter. Carlos Boozer had 25 points and 13 rebounds while Mehmet Okur added 24 and 10 for the Jazz, who can climb over .500 for the first time since Jan. 17 with a victory in this game.
“That was definitely one of our best quarters, especially passing the ball,” said Jazz point guard Deron Williams, who finished with 14 points and nine assists. “We shared the ball well, made the extra pass. Guys got easy shots and they just really couldn’t defend it.”
Following this game, the Jazz have tough road games at Dallas and San Antonio before returning home for its season finale against Golden State.
“Four more games. We still have a chance, so let’s fight,” said Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who scored 14 points.
After dropping consecutive games, the Hornets stayed in the playoff picture with a 104-99 win Wednesday over the Seattle SuperSonics. Rookie point guard Chris Paul scored four of his 21 points in the final minute, and Desmond Mason and Marc Jackson each notched their first double-doubles of the season.
“It’s do or die for us,” said Mason, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. “We’ve got to win these games. We can’t afford to lose one on not getting a rebound or not running up and down the floor or not helping our teammates. I thought we did all those things.”
The Hornets, who close out their home schedule with this game, may be without leading scorer David West. The forward aggravated a sprained left ankle in Monday’s loss to Cleveland and did not play Wednesday.
New Orleans closes its season with road games against Pacific Division opponents Sacramento, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Jazz have won three of the last four meetings between these two teams.