Utah Jazz: Riding a three-win streak, Jazz prepare to face the Thunder
SALT LAKE CITY — One trend will end tonight for the Utah Jazz when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Jazz come into this 7 p.m. contest on a roll, having won three games in a row, including Sunday's 103-99 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles. They've also held serve at home for five straight games.
On the other hand, OKC has beaten the Jazz five times in a row and the Thunder have trounced Utah by an average of 20 points in two lopsided match-ups this season.
"They're one of the best teams in the league," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of the 34-11 Thunder, who are running away with the Western Conference. "They're such a dynamic scoring team. Their defense is pretty solid."
Center Al Jefferson returned to the Jazz after missing the Jazz's two weekend wins overtime victory against Golden State and the Laker win so he could be with family and attend his grandmother's funeral.
"Everything (was) wonderful," Jefferson said.
Big Al will return to his usual starting spot, which was occupied nicely by second-year big man Derrick Favors.
The Jazz will also start swingman C.J. Miles for the third straight game because of Raja Bell's lingering strained adductor injury.
Backup point guard Earl Watson (sprained left ankle) will be a game-time decision, but Jamaal Tinsley has subbed in for him quite well.
Jefferson could not have been prouder of the way Favors, Enes Kanter and the entire team picked up the slack in his absence to get the team above .500 at 23-22.
"They played well, man, especially Derrick the first game," Jefferson said, referring to Favors' 23-point, 17-rebound effort. "I think everybody played well against the Lakers, Big Turkey really came in and gave us a big lift. They played team basketball. I just want to get in and try to keep it going and fit right in with those guys."
The developing depth on this Jazz squad made Jefferson smile from Mississippi. "Everybody just played well as a team," he said. "And to see that, it just showed that we could be great."
Miles will have the toughest challenge going against Durant, who's averaging 27.7 points and can hit from outside and inside. Of course, Miles is coming off of a stellar defensive outing against Kobe Bryant, who missed 17 of 20 field-goal attempts Sunday.
"I thought (Miles) did a good job," Corbin said. "He just got in there aggressive and stayed on (Bryant) the whole night and made him work for everything he got, active hands and moved his feet well and made him take tough jumps shots and we're going to need that kind of effort tonight."
Second-year swingman Gordon Hayward will also get time against Durant, and the Jazz's key reserve had an excellent defensive showing in the teams' first game in Utah this season (only 19 points).
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