After taking a step back in their quest for the final playoff spot, the Utah Jazz hope to seize another opportunity to move into an eighth-place tie in the Western Conference.
The Jazz will try to get back on track with their sixth win in seven games on Friday night when they host the New Orleans Hornets, losers of seven straight on the road.
Utah (39-37) appeared to be peaking at the right time with five straight victories to draw even with the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the West.
The Jazz, though, fell off the pace following their 113-96 home loss to Denver on Wednesday. The Lakers, who did not play on Wednesday, regained a one-half game edge for the last postseason spot.
With just six games remaining, Utah will have to take advantage with three of its next four at home. The Jazz have won seven of their last nine in Salt Lake City and are 28-10 at home.
“We just got to bounce back,” said center Al Jefferson who has averaged 22.3 points on 60.9 percent shooting in the last four meetings in Salt Lake City.
Utah will again try to pull even by taking three of four from a New Orleans team that is winless on the road in almost two months.
The Southwest Division-worst Hornets (26-49) shot just 39.8 percent in a 98-88 loss to Golden State on Wednesday as their road skid reached a season high.
“Some of our guys had a tough shooting night, but we had more defensive breakdowns in the first half than we’ve had in full games lately,” said coach Monty Williams, whose club fell to 10-26 on the road and hasn’t won there since Feb. 11.
The Hornets, however, managed to hang with the Jazz behind Greivis Vasquez’s 17 points and 13 assists in a 104-99 loss in Utah on Jan. 30. They also picked up their only win in the season series on Nov. 2, when Vasquez hit a layup with 1.3 seconds left in an 88-86 home win.
Robin Lopez has played well against the Jazz, averaging a team-best 17.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting.
The Hornets are expected to have both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis this time around. Gordon (knee) sat out the first three meetings, while Davis left the first game after getting elbowed in the head and missed the second due to an ankle injury.
The Hornets will take any kind of offensive spark they can get after averaging 87.8 points over their last six road games.
They might be catching the Utah defense at an opportune time, since it has allowed 107.3 points - 11.8 above its home season average - on 55.2 percent shooting in its last three home games.
Paul Millsap led the Jazz with 25 points and 10 rebounds in the January win and has scored 19.8 per game while hitting 53.1 percent of his shots in his last four in this series.
After averaging 22.7 points over his previous three games, Mo Williams will try to rebound from a 2-of-12 shooting performance against the Nuggets.
Utah had averaged 108.6 points and hit 41.4 percent from 3-point range during its five-game winning streak before Wednesday’s loss in which they made 6 of 20 from beyond the arc.
The Jazz have won 10 of 12 at home in this series by an average of 13.5 points.