Nets-Jazz Preview

The Associated Press

The All-Star break came at the worst time for the Utah Jazz, whose recent victory over the two-time defending champions kicked off their best stretch of the season.

And while Brooklyn has been playing far better in 2014, the Nets are trying to avoid matching their worst road skid.

Utah welcomes its former point guard Deron Williams back as it seeks a fourth straight win overall and fifth consecutive against the Nets in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night.

Though they've been one of the Western Conference's worst clubs, the Jazz (19-33) have been playing with confidence since snapping a four-game losing streak with a 94-89 win over visiting Miami on Feb. 8.

They followed that stunning victory with a 96-79 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 11 and a 105-100 victory over visiting Philadelphia last Wednesday.

While Utah's starting backcourt of Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke has combined for 47 points on 14-of-53 (26.4 percent) shooting in the past two contests, Alec Burks has stepped up to score 50 while making 14 of 21 shots over that span.

The reserve guard had 10 of his 26 points - including a personal 9-0 run - in the final two minutes against the 76ers after the Jazz had endured a six-minute scoreless stretch with seven missed shots and two turnovers.

"I surprise myself on some of these shots I make," said Burks, who also made 13 of 14 from the foul line.

Burks, who has averaged 21.0 points in his last four home games, will try to help the Jazz extend their longest winning streak of the season to four.

Although the Nets (24-27) have gone 14-6 since Jan. 1, they stumbled into the All-Star break following a 92-76 loss at Chicago in which they shot just 38.8 percent.

Paul Pierce scored a team-high 15 points on just 4-of-11 shooting, while Williams and Joe Johnson missed a combined 20 of 28 from the floor and totaled 24 points.

"Every team in the league has played over 50 games," said Pierce, who has scored 20 or more on four of five trips to Utah dating to his time with Boston. "I wish the break was a little bit longer, especially for us older guys."

Williams, who spent his first six seasons in Utah, has averaged just 11.3 points over his last four games. The veteran finished with 10 points and eight assists in a 104-88 home win over the Jazz on Nov. 5.

Williams makes his third trip to Salt Lake City since being traded for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and draft picks in February 2011. The Nets dropped their two previous visits while Williams totaled 37 points on 9-of-29 shooting.

Favors is reported to be a game-time decision against his former team after re-injuring his right hip against the 76ers. Utah also could be without Richard Jefferson for the first time this season due to stomach cramps.

The Nets seek their first season sweep of Utah since 2006-07, but they'll have to avert a fourth straight road loss as they play their second on a seven-game trip.

While Brooklyn has averaged 102.3 points during a four-game home win streak, it has scored 89.0 per game during the road skid. The Nets could have a tough time reversing that trend against the Jazz, who have allowed 89.3 per game during their win streak.

The Nets haven't won in Utah since November 2008, dropping the last four meetings by an average of 16.3 points.

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