Jazz-Hornets Preview

The Associated Press

The Utah Jazz got their only back-to-back-to-back stretch of the season off to a strong start by snapping their longest skid of 2011-12.

A visit to New Orleans to face the woeful Hornets could help them take another positive step Monday night.

Utah's three-game road trip is taking place over three consecutive nights, concluding Tuesday at NBA-leading Oklahoma City. The Jazz (14-12) kicked off their hectic journey Sunday night with a 98-88 victory over Memphis to end a three-game losing streak.

Gordon Hayward shot 8 of 12 and scored a season-high 23 points, while Al Jefferson had 21 points and a season-high 15 rebounds. Utah also benefited from an improved defensive performance after allowing an average of 102.8 points over its first six games of February. The Jazz scored 30 points of 18 Grizzlies turnovers.

"When we make some stops on the defensive end, we're able to push it a little bit more and get into our offense, instead of just walking the ball up the court and being stagnant," Hayward said. "That's really where we turned it around."

The Jazz might not have a problem making stops Monday as the Hornets (4-23) have one of the meekest offenses in the league, averaging a Western Conference-low 87.1 points. They've been even worse at home with 86.3 points per game, and are averaging 85.4 during their current eight-game skid.

Despite those struggles, New Orleans was within two points with 44 seconds left against visiting Portland on Friday. The Hornets, though, missed two of their final three shots and committed a costly turnover to seal a 94-86 defeat, their fifth straight home loss and 14th in 16 games on their own floor this season.

New Orleans played short-handed Friday after center Chris Kaman sprained his left ankle during warmups. The team also announced starting point guard Jarrett Jack is expected to miss at least a week with a sore left knee, joining Eric Gordon (sore right knee), Carl Landry (sprained left knee) and Jason Smith (concussion) on the sidelines.

"When I look at this game, I see guys who fought, who competed, who were put in a tough situation and battled all night," coach Monty Williams said. "I'm proud to be around a group of guys who fight no matter what the situation. We have to get better down the stretch, but we had guys out there who had never been in that position and it was a good learning experience."

Utah will try to take advantage of the Hornets' injury woes and win for the sixth time in its last seven visits to New Orleans.

The Hornets, meanwhile, are seeking to avoid matching their season-worst nine-game skid from Jan. 11-25. To snap their current losing streak, they'll need to perform better down the stretch than they did Jan. 2 in a 94-90 loss to the Jazz in Salt Lake City.

New Orleans led by a point with 3:49 remaining in that contest, but was outscored 11-6 from there. Jefferson led the Jazz with 22 points on 11-of-18 shooting, while Jack shot 11 of 17 and finished a season-high 27 points for the Hornets in a losing cause.

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