The skidding Utah Jazz will try to salvage their playoff prospects as they continue a six-game road swing Thursday night at the Orlando Magic.
Utah dropped its fourth straight decision and fell to 0-3 on its critical road trip with a 120-116 loss Tuesday in Dallas. Lauri Markkanen scored 33 points in his ninth consecutive game with at least 20 points, but the Jazz could not recover from an 8-0 run by the Mavericks with less than three minutes to go in the contest.
“I thought our team deserved to win — nothing against Dallas at all — the way we competed,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “This one hurts for sure. Our guys in the locker room laid it all on the line and they’re hurting, too.”
The loss to Dallas followed back-to-back defeats in Oklahoma City to begin Utah’s six-game odyssey, and a home loss to woeful San Antonio on Feb. 28. The Jazz scored just 94 points against the Spurs, one of three contests amid the current skid in which they failed to meet their season average of 117 points per game.
The one time Utah exceeded its average over this stretch was in Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma City, despite leading scorer Markkanen (25.3 points per game) being out of the lineup.
Utah’s tailspin has dropped it into a logjam of teams competing for the Western Conference’s four play-in spots, a group that includes the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. Those seven teams were separated by just 2.5 games entering Wednesday.
Orlando also enters on the outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. The Magic trailed Washington, currently in the 10th spot and last play-in bid, by 4.5 games through Tuesday.
Orlando continues a four-game homestand. The Magic dropped the first two with defeats of 122-119 to Portland on Sunday and 134-123 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
“Defense from us? I didn’t see too much of that tonight,” Magic guard Cole Anthony said following the loss to the Bucks.
Orlando has dropped three of its last four and surrendered at least 122 points — eight points more than its 114-point per game yield on the season — in all three defeats.
“We just had no answer for them,” Anthony added. “We couldn’t stop them.”
Orlando’s pursuit of more defensive consistency comes to a head with Utah looking to regroup offensively. The Jazz come into Thursday’s contest ranked seventh in the league in scoring offense.
When these teams last met on Jan. 13 in Salt Lake City, the Jazz recorded a 112-108 victory behind 28 points from Markkanen. He also blocked a 3-point attempt by Franz Wagner in the final seconds to help secure the win over the Magic, who got 26 points from Wagner and 19 each from Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr.
–Field Level Media