The Utah Jazz began the season on a torrid pace and ended November with the league’s best record. An inconsistent December has slowed the Jazz, but they insist they are ready to rebound.
Utah closes out the month of December at home on Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers, a team they’ve had a lot of success playing in recent years.
The Jazz (21-9) have won four straight and 14 of their last 20 games against Portland, and they own an even better winning percentage against the Blazers at home. Utah has won nine of its last 10 at home versus the Trail Blazers and 23 of the last 29 since 1991.
Coach Jerry Sloan’s team has won three of its last five, but the Jazz are coming off a ragged 106-83 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. They shot just 42 percent, committed 17 turnovers and missed 13 free throws in 32 attempts.
The Jazz had four players score in double figures, but no one had more than 11 points. Deron Williams and Gordan Giricek each had 11, while Mehmet Okur and rookie Paul Milsap had 10 apiece. Carlos Boozer, who leads the league with 22 double-doubles, was limited to nine points and seven rebounds on 2-of-10 shooting.
“We started to take tough shots and stopped executing,” Sloan said. “That’s what the other team wants. When you start complaining they come back and kick your butts. They made us play at a different level, which was frantic. Whether it was passing the ball or shooting, we played frantic.”
Utah began December with the league’s best record at 13-4, but the Jazz have struggled to an 8-5 mark this month, losing four games on the road.
“I think that we’re still in a little bit of a funk right now,” said Derek Fisher, who has been held under 10 points the last two games after averaging 13.0 points in the previous five. “I think we’re still in the process of getting back to that level of play.”
Utah plays its next two games at home, including next Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, but will then play seven of its next nine on the road.
The Trail Blazers (13-17) lost for the fourth time in the last five games following a 98-95 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. Portland nearly rallied from a 10-point deficit in the final four-plus minutes, but rookie Brandon Roy missed a potential game-winning layup in the final seconds.
Roy, who finished with 15 points, said he was fouled on the play.
“It definitely felt like a foul,” said Roy, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft. “When you put the game in the refs’ hands, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. … I’m a rookie and I know I need to pay my dues, but I want to win.”
Portland is 6-9 on the road this season, where it is averaging just 89.9 points, the second-lowest total in the NBA.