While the Utah Jazz are just a few games out of first place in the Northwest Division, they are also keeping their eye on the surging Oklahoma City Thunder, who are threatening them for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.
The Jazz will try to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time in more than two months Sunday when they visit the Thunder, who are looking to win their fifth straight.
Utah (42-23) had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 95-87 loss to Milwaukee on Friday. The Jazz entered having gone 24-6 since a three-game losing streak Dec. 31-Jan. 4, and averaged 117.5 points over their previous four games.
On Friday, though, they went 0 for 10 from 3-point range and had 16 turnovers. Carlos Boozer(notes) had 26 points and 14 rebounds, but was ejected after being assessed a pair of technical fouls for arguing a no-call on what he thought was a foul with 13.4 seconds left.
The Jazz played most of the second half without starting forward Andrei Kirilenko(notes), who suffered a strained left calf and is questionable for Sunday. Point guard Deron Williams(notes) aggravated his left shoulder injury and was icing it after the game. He is expected to play against the Thunder, though.
“We finally held a team under 100, but we don’t score enough against them because their defense was good tonight,” said Williams, who scored 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting. “(Bucks coach) Scott Skiles had the team ready to play.”
While Utah’s run over the last two months has helped it keep pace with the division-leading Nuggets, they have been unable to create much separation with the fifth-place Thunder, who are 2 1/2 games back after a run of their own.
Oklahoma City (40-24) has won four straight and 16 of 19, including a 104-102 victory over lowly New Jersey on Friday. Kevin Durant(notes) scored 32 points, surpassing 30 for a franchise-best 36th time this season. He hit two late free throws to clinch the victory after rallying the team back from a 15-point deficit in the final seven minutes.
Durant, who scored fewer than 30 points in three of the previous four games, had 13 of his points in the fourth quarter after being held to four in the third.
“Durant eventually got himself going,” Nets coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “He is a terrific player, top five player in this league. Even though we were hitting him off of somebody every time, he still got his points.”
While the Thunder struggled to put away the NBA-worst Nets, coach Scott Brooks was satisfied with the victory.
“It’s one of those wins that you’re glad that you got it and you just move on and get ready for Sunday in Utah,” Brooks said.
The Thunder have won both games against the Jazz this season, including an 87-86 victory in the most recent meeting Dec. 31 at the Ford Center. Durant scored 31 points and Nick Collison(notes) hit two clutch free throws in that win.
Williams, who is averaging 18.5 points, has scored a combined 24 in the two losses to Oklahoma City.