Jazz-Bulls preview

The Utah Jazz will go for their 11th home win in 12 tries tonight when they play host to the Chicago Bulls at EnergySolutions Arena.

After spending much of their first 42 games on the road, Utah (28-22) has played nine times at home since Jan. 14. Over that time the Jazz have put together eight wins and held steady to the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference playoff picture.

The Bulls (29-20) are at the end of a six-game road trip. They’ve dropped two in a row and three of their last four, including a 126-98 loss to Denver on Thursday.

The 126 points they allowed are the most given up by the defensive-minded club since allowing 132 to the Jazz, in Salt Lake City, in March of 2010.

“Obviously, we didn’t play well,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “But I’m looking at the trip and I’m trying analyze where we are as a team. We’ve been in position to win every game. Sometimes you take a punch, you’ve got to be ready to get up and deliver another one.”

On average, the Bulls allow 91.8 points per game, third fewest in the NBA.

“Pressure,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, describing the key to Chicago’s defense. “First of all, one through five, they do a good job of staying between their man and the basket. They try and keep their hands on guys.”

The Bulls are led by forward Luol Deng, who averages 17.1 points per game. Former Jazzman Carlos Boozer averages 15.7.

Utah is led by center Al Jefferson (17.1) and forward Paul Millsap (14.9).

Chicago will play without star point guard Derrick Rose (left knee) who has yet to play this season. The Bulls also will go without guard Kirk Hinrich (right elbow), who did not travel with the team.

Center Joakim Noah (right foot) will start and guard Marco Belinelli (right ankle) will be a game-time decision.

The Jazz will again play without point guard Mo Williams (right thumb surgery) and swingman Gordon Hayward (right shoulder sprain).

Reserve point guard Earl Watson (right leg bone bruise, stress fracture) will dress and be available if needed, Corbin said.

The Jazz play Saturday night in Sacramento and Corbin noted he’d rather save Watson for that game.

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About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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