Jazz closing in on playoff berth as they host Lakers
The Utah Jazz are moving closer to wrapping up a playoff berth while the Los Angeles Lakers are trying not to clinch a sixth straight losing season.
The two teams collide Wednesday night in Salt Lake City as the Jazz look to defeat the Lakers for the 13th time in the past 15 meetings.
Utah is looking for its eighth straight home win over Los Angeles (33-41) as it nears its third straight postseason berth.
The Jazz (44-30) are in sixth place in the Western Conference and are seven games ahead of the ninth-place Sacramento Kings with eight contests remaining.
Only an epic collapse -- plus an unbelievable finish by the Kings -- would prevent Utah from being part of the postseason but the Jazz are also in the midst of a hot streak.
Utah has won seven of its last eight games and it whipped the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns by an average of 32 points in its last two contests.
The Jazz built a 34-point halftime lead in Saturday's 114-83 dismantling of the Bulls. Two nights later, they shot 55.8 percent from the field in a 125-92 win over Phoenix despite Suns guard Devin Booker pouring in a season-high 59 points.
"We're an unselfish team. We move the ball. We share the ball, and we play together," Utah forward Joe Ingles told reporters after the contest. "We've never worried about someone shooting too much or not enough."
Center Rudy Gobert scored a season-best 27 points against the Suns and staying close to the basket has proven to be a benefit. Gobert has 275 dunks, the most in a season since the NBA began keeping track in 2000. The old mark was held by Dwight Howard (269 in 2007-08 for the Orlando Magic).
"It's a mix of many things, but I think my teammates have done a great job of finding me," Gobert told reporters. "Compared to last year, I have way more lobs, way more high passes this year, and it puts me in a great position to finish. It's a great offensive play. It's hard to guard, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense."
The Lakers will try to slow Gobert as well as look for their third consecutive victory.
Los Angeles hadn't won back-to-back games since Jan. 15 (Chicago Bulls) and Jan. 17 (Oklahoma City Thunder) and it lost 20 of its next 26 contests prior to the current two-game winning streak -- 111-106 over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday and 124-106 over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
Forward LeBron James had 23 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds in the win over Washington but he might be held out against the Jazz on the second end of a back-to-back. Coach Luke Walton indicated the decision will be made on Wednesday.
"I feel pretty good," James said during a postgame interview on TNT. "I don't know what the rest of the season is going to hold for me as far as how many games I end up playing. But when I do suit up, then it's my job to go out and produce and help this team win ballgames no matter what the situation is."
Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 29 points against the Wizards and center JaVale McGee added 20 points and 15 rebounds. McGee is averaging 23.3 points and 16.3 rebounds over the past three games.
"JaVale is playing with a lot of energy right now," Walton said in Tuesday's postgame press conference. "It is reminding me of how he was to start the season, where he is up above grabbing rebounds where no one else can get."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 27, 2019