This matchup features two of the four teams currently vying for the No. 4 seed and the right to open the playoffs at home. The Jazz are currently a half-game up on the Clippers, 1.5 on the Grizzlies and a full three games on the Thunder, but come in on a two-game losing streak since they’ve surrendered their third-highest point toal of the season in consecutive games. George Hill being bothered by a toe injury has been one factor in the slide for the league’s top defensive team, but the over has come in five straight times in Jazz games as the offense has had a solid run. They’ll be looking to avoid only their third three-game losing streak of the season here, not to mention consecutive losses at home for the first time since Dec. 23.
A key subplot which will contribute heavily to deciding both side and total will be the clash of centers. DeAndre Jordan, who has made back-to-back All-Defensive First Team appearances, squares off with this season’s Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner, Rudy Gobert. Earlier this month, Jordan got his first career All-Star nod over the Frenchman, who tops the NBA in blocks and most defensive metrics, leading many to question the judgment of the head coaches that made the call. Both players should have a little extra here.
This season’s only meeting came way back on Oct. 30 and was won by the Clippers at Staples 88-75. That scoring output remains Utah’s second-lowest of the season. Both teams were healthy for that game, and although he shot just 3-for-10, Jordan helped control the pace with 16 rebounds and ended up a game-best plus-18. Gobert had the lowest-point differential (minus-17) and committed a game-tying four turnovers, finishing with eight points and nine boards. Neither Paul, who isn’t expected back until the second week of March at the earliest, nor Rodney Hood (knee), who each started that first game, will be available tonight.
The Clippers have dominated this series, winning 16 of the last 17 meetings, including eight in a row in Salt Lake City.
Coming off a game where they surrendered a season-high 130 points, it will be interesting to see whether OKC can lock in defensively on the road. The over is 5-1 in Washington’s last six games and tonight’s total (217), has been surpassed each of the those five times.
The nightcap features a meeting between backcourts that haven’t seen one another this season as Dennis Schroder and newly minted starter Tim Hardaway, Jr. will try and keep the Hawks from suffering consecutive losses for the first time since Dec. 5 against Portland’s Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the highest-scoring guard combo in the NBA.
Hardaway, Jr. has thrived since Atlanta freed up more minutes for him by dealing Kyle Korver to Cleveland, and scored 28 points in his first start in Friday’s 108-107 loss in Sacramento, filling in for an injured Thabo Sefolosha (groin). Hardaway, Jr. opened the month with a 33-point night in a win at Houston and is averaging 17.1 points over his last 10 games. Schroder will be looking to score 20 or more points in a fourth consecutive game for the first time in his career, but comes off a six-turnover game in the loss to the Kings.
Lillard and McCollum, both snubbed for All-Star spots, combined for 61 points in Portland’s last win, a 114-113 classic in Dallas last Wednesday, but combined to shoot 2-for-13 from 3-point range in Thursday’s loss to Boston. The Blazers have been off since and will be well-rested as they try and rebound here.
Both teams surrendered double-digit leads in their last games, with the Blazers blowing a 17-point second-quarter lead agains the Celtics and Atlanta allowing Scramento to rally from 22 down.
Portland is 0-4 against the number this month and hasn’t defeated the Hawks since March 2014, losing their last four. The Blazers will be employing a different starting lineup, having traded center Mason Plumlee to Denver for Nikola Jokic on Sunday. Atlanta has won three of the last four played at the Moda Center.
Notable Head-to-Head Trends
— The 76ers ended a six-game losing streak against the Hornets on Jan. 13 behind 24 points from Joel Embiid, but won’t have him available here since he’s out indefinitely with a torn meniscus. With Jahlil Okafor reportedly on the verge of being traded, Philly will be without its top two big men as it looks to win in Charlotte for the first time since Nov. 2012, a span of seven games. The Sixers have reached the 20-win mark for the first time since that season.
— Indiana has hit the skids again and need to pull an upset in order to avoid matching a season-long four-game losing streak. All three setbacks have gone over the posted total as the Pacers have allowed an average of 120 points. They’ve missed the length and energy of forward Thaddeus Young, who is doubtful with a wrist injury. San Antonio has dominated this series, winning 15 of the last 17 matchups, but Indiana actually won the last one, 99-91 last March 7. The Spurs were at full strength, too. Monta Ellis scored 26.
— Miami’s 13-game winning streak ended at the hands of the 76ers on Saturday, but former Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy still raised eyebrows with his comments last week that the Heat look like a playoff lock in his eyes. Orlando has dropped four straight, including a 112-80 loss in Dallas last time out, so spirits are pretty low as a shakeup via trade appears imminent. The Magic are looking for consecutive wins over the Heat for the first time since Feb. 2012 and have dropped 15 of 19 in the series, but did win in South Florida 136-130 back on Dec. 20. Check on the status of Dion Waiters and Aaron Gordon before tipoff.
— Brooklyn hopes to snap a 12-game losing streak that is their longest of the decade. The Nets have dropped 14 in a row at home and are facing a Grizzlies team that is looking for their fifth straight win in this series.
— Detroit rallied from 16 down to post an OT win in Toronto on Sunday and will try to sweep their first back-to-back since Nov. 30 in Milwaukee. That success, which came against Boston and Atlanta, was also executed exclusively on the road. The Pistons have been brutal on the second night of back-to-backs, going 2-7 with multiple blowout losses. The Bucks have inserted Michael Beasley into their starting lineup now that Jabari Parker has been lost for the season. They’re looking to win consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 13. Since Jan. 6, Milwaukee is 5-14 straight up and ATS. These teams have split this season’s meetings. The Pistons won three of four in ’15-’16.
— Either the Celtics or Mavericks will walk out of American Airlines Center with a three-game winning streak. Boston is closing out a four-game road trip and will play nine of their next 11 between now and March 10 away from home, so remaining second in the Eastern Conference hinges on its continued success in this role. After losing seven straight in this series since 2013, the Celtics are looking to sweep this season’s meetings, having beaten the Mavs 90-83 back on Nov. 16. That was part of Dallas’ eight-game losing streak during a 2-13 start, so it is a different team than the one that will take the floor tonight. Since Jan. 12, the Mavs are 11-5 SU and 13-3 ATS.
— The short-handed Nuggets will look to prevent the Warriors from improving to 47-8 as they could potentially be without Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay. They’re not going to have Plumlee available either, which explains why they’re a double-digit underdog at home. Golden State has won five of six in the series, which has seen the over prevail in eight consecutive games.