While Al Jefferson doesn’t appear quite ready to go, the slumping Utah Jazz could get a big boost from the possible return of Mo Williams as they go for a seventh consecutive victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.
Averaging 12.9 points and a team-leading 6.7 assists, Williams hasn’t played since suffering a severely sprained right thumb against Miami on Dec. 22. He made it through practice Tuesday, and coach Tyrone Corbin is leaving the door open for him to suit up against his former team.
The Jazz (32-28) have gone 18-14 during Williams’ absence, and his return could prove especially crucial with Jefferson still banged up. Jefferson, who leads the team with 17.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, is likely to miss a third straight contest due to a sprained left ankle.
Jefferson’s injury comes at a less-than-opportune time for Utah, which has dropped four of five and into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’re always aware of what’s going on with our opponents, but you can’t get crazy about it,” Corbin said. “All we control is what we do.”
The Jazz opened a four-game road trip with Monday’s 109-108 overtime loss to Milwaukee. Utah outrebounded the Bucks 59-42 but shot 40.4 percent.
The Jazz were outscored 30-17 in the third quarter and have been outscored by an average of 10.6 points in the third over their last five games.
“It’s kind of one of our re-occurring themes that we’ve got to break, bad habits coming out of halftime, not ready to play,” Millsap said.
Cleveland (20-40) has also been dealing with its fair share of health troubles. Kyrie Irving returned Monday after sitting out three games with a hyperextended right knee, but rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller were held out of a 102-97 loss to New York due to an illness.
Marreese Speights had a season-high 23 points while starting in place of Zeller and Irving chipped in 22 as the Cavaliers were outrebounded 40-31 and surrendered 22 points off 15 turnovers.
Cleveland led by as many as 22 in the second quarter before coming undone.
“We’re not that good yet to be able to turn that switch on and off,” said swingman C.J. Miles who signed with Cleveland this summer following seven seasons in Utah. “We’ve got to play that way all the time. We’ve got to play hard all the time. There’s talent on the team, but there’s not enough years to go with the talent. You live and learn, but we should have learned by now.”
While Zeller will return Wednesday, Waiters won’t play. Waiters is averaging 19.9 points on 52.5 percent shooting over his last seven games, and he scored a team-high 23 in a 109-98 loss at Utah on Jan. 19.
The Cavaliers have been outscored by an average of 10.3 points during their skid against the Jazz.