Jazz ride three-game win streak into tough stretch starting in Houston

Jazz ride three-game win streak into tough stretch starting in Houston

HOUSTON — Since their rough game against Minnesota, the Utah Jazz have bounced back nicely to pick up three wins in a row.

Games against the worst team in the league, the Brooklyn Nets, and against likely lottery teams, Sacramento and New Orleans, couldn’t have come at a better time for the Jazz.

Utah’s next three games are going to be significantly more difficult to win.

The Jazz begin a tough three-game stretch against teams they’re jockeying with for positioning in the Western Conference playoff standings.

The adventure begins Wednesday night against the Rockets in the Toyota Center. Utah then has two days off — enough time for a quick flight home before another flight to Oklahoma City — to face the Thunder in a Saturday matinee game.

The Clippers will then be their guests at Vivint Arena on Monday night.

“It’s a big stretch for us — Houston, OKC and the Clippers, three really good teams,” Jazz guard Rodney Hood said. “We’ve got to come ready to play, starting our focus on Houston. We know what they bring. We’ve got to go into their environment, which is a tough environment, and try to get a win.”

The schedule doesn’t look very favorable after that, either.

Utah has a four-game Midwestern trip next week.

The next few games are of particular importance, though. There’s still an outside shot that the Jazz, currently in the fourth spot, could challenge Houston for the No. 3 seed. That’s a long shot considering the Rockets (44-20) hold a four-game lead over the Jazz (40-24) with 18 games remaining.

But it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Utah is also hoping to fend off the Clippers (fifth place) and the Thunder, who are neck-and-neck with the Grizzlies for the sixth and seventh positions.

On the other hand, Utah has the toughest remaining schedule, according to NBA.com, with 11 of 18 games on the road and seven opponents above the .500 mark. The next month could be a roller-coaster ride.

“When it gets this late in the season, it’s fun to be in the hunt and play in games that matter,” Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. “So we’ll take it one game at a time.”

First things first: Houston.

The Jazz and Rockets each won home games against each other earlier this season. Houston reeled off wins in 20 of 22 games after getting pounded by Utah 120-101 on Nov. 29.

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“They’re really good, especially at home,” Hayward said of the Rockets, who are 23-8 at home. “It’s going to be a battle there for sure.”

JAZZ NOTE: Utah will be shorthanded — perhaps severely so — Wednesday in Houston. Power forward Derrick Favors will not play because of right knee soreness, and backup point guard Shelvin Mack (ankle sprain) will miss his third straight game. The Jazz might also be without starting point guard George Hill (left big toe soreness/rest) and forward Joe Johnson (mild groin strain), who are both listed as questionable.

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Published at Wed, 08 Mar 2017 05:04:00 +0000