Another victory would help the Utah Jazz match their longest win streak in 10 seasons. It would also move them to the top of the Northwest Division.
Fresh off a stirring comeback, the Jazz look for their 11th straight victory Sunday afternoon in Toronto as they start a five-game road trip.
Utah (39-23) would pull even with Denver for first in the Northwest if it can tie an 11-game run set from April 1-18, 1999. A Nuggets loss at Sacramento later that night would leave the Jazz alone at the top.
After steadily cutting into Denver’s lead throughout the past month, Utah took a bigger slice with Friday night’s 97-91 victory over the Nuggets. Trailing by 19 late in the second quarter, Utah scored 17 straight and took over for good with less than 13 minutes remaining.
“The first half and the second half, there was a great deal of difference in the way we played,” coach Jerry Sloan said. “The second half, we came out and acted like we wanted to play. The first half, they just dominated - just kicked us all over the floor.”
A healthier lineup is one reason why the Jazz are in position for a third straight division title.
A left ankle sprain caused point guard Deron Williams to miss 13 of the season’s first 15 games, and while he was away, Carlos Boozer went out with a strained quadriceps tendon and had knee surgery. The All-Star power forward ended his 44-game absence Feb. 23.
While Williams scored 12 of his 25 during the third quarter Friday and had 11 assists - his 11th consecutive game with 10 or more—Boozer hasn’t fully reached the form that helped him lead Utah in scoring and rebounding the past two seasons.
Against Denver, Boozer couldn’t follow up Wednesday night’s 20-point, 17-rebound performance against Houston. He finished with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting Friday but had a team-leading 16 rebounds.
Boozer could be in line for a big game Sunday as he has averaged 23.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in his last four meetings with Toronto (23-40). He missed Utah’s seventh straight win over the Raptors - a 114-87 blowout at home Dec. 5— as Williams scored a team-best 21.
Eight of the Jazz’s 10 straight victories have come at home, where they are 28-6 after going a league-best 37-4 in 2007-08. Utah is 11-17 on the road but has won three of its last four away from home.
Those wins, however, came against struggling foes Sacramento, Minnesota and Golden State, which handed Utah its previous loss Feb. 8 in Oakland. The Jazz look to take advantage of another sputtering team in Toronto.
While the Raptors have won three of their last five at home, they have lost four straight overall. In a 108-102 defeat Friday night at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto trailed by as much as 15 in the fourth quarter and got no closer than six with 1:04 remaining.
“We went down 15, and when you dig yourself that big a hole against a good team, it’s tough,” guard Anthony Parker told the team’s official Web site. “To our credit, we did scrap and come back and get back into it.”