There’s a good reason why the Utah Jazz are trying to gain home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs—their recent play on the road.
The Jazz hope to bounce back from another road loss when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
Utah (48-26) has already clinched the Northwest Division title, but still has work left to clinch the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. It leads Houston by 1 1/2 games and the two teams will likely meet in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jazz have dropped seven of their last eight road games, although the lone win was an important 86-83 victory over the Rockets on Sunday. Utah, however, fell to 1-2 on its four-game trip with a 94-89 loss to Portland on Wednesday.
“They played more inspired than us and harder than us,” Utah guard Deron Williams said. “They looked like the team that was trying to get home-court advantage more than us.”
The loss overshadowed a big game from Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, who had 21 points and 21 rebounds. It marked the fourth time in his career that he had at least 20 in each category.
“They took it to us,” Boozer said. “We tried to fight back at the end but they made the plays to win the game.”
The Jazz are seeking to win twice at Arco Arena for the first time since 1996-97, when they reached the NBA finals for the first time. They outscored the Kings 39-17 in the fourth quarter to rally for a 110-101 win on Nov. 22.
Williams has been a better scorer on the road for Utah this season, averaging 18.4 points on over 49 percent shooting. He’s averaging 15.1 points on less than 43 percent shooting at home.
The Jazz point guard will be matched up against Sacramento’s Mike Bibby, who turned in another rough effort in a 120-115 loss at Denver on Wednesday. Bibby made 5-of-17 shots and scored 14 points as the Kings lost their fourth straight.
Bibby is averaging 13.5 points on 29.0 percent shooting during the four-game slide. He’s handing out a career-low 4.9 assists per game while shooting under 40 percent for the season.
Sacramento (30-44) gave up 71 points in the first half Wednesday and fell seven games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. The Kings have made eight straight playoff appearances.
“We finished strong,” Sacramento swingman Ron Artest said. “We aren’t officially out of the playoffs yet, so we will still play hard.”
While Utah rallied from a 21-point deficit in its earlier victory at Sacramento, the Kings came back from 16 down in the fourth quarter to even the season series at a game apiece with a 98-97 win on Dec. 15.