Jazz-Warriors preview

Riding a two-game winning streak, the Utah Jazz can move into a virtual tie for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

All the need to do is beat the Golden State Warriors tonight at EnergySolutions Arena.

That’s something they couldn’t do last time they met, Dec. 26 in Salt Lake City.

The Warriors (30-22) won that night, 94-83.

“To be honest, I don’t even remember (how the Warriors won),” Utah center Al Jefferson said. “They handled us very well.”

The Jazz (30-24) were vexed by the zone defense the Warriors used. As a team, Utah shot just 38.6 percent from the field while Golden State hit 40 percent, which included shooting 9-for-18 from behind the 3-point line.

“I don’t think we were prepared for the zone,” Jefferson said. “They couldn’t match-up with us on the inside so they went to their zone and they did a great job.”

The Jazz won back-to-back games before the All-Star break, knocking off Oklahoma City in ESA and beating Minnesota on the road.

Golden State, meanwhile, has dropped five in a row.

The Warriors are led by point guard Stephen Curry, who averages 21 points and 6.6 assists per game.

Curry hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points on Dec. 26. Teammate David Lee added 18 points.

The Jazz are led by center Al Jefferson, who averages 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.

Jefferson scored 18 points and had 10 boards in the preview meeting with the Warriors.

The Jazz sit in 7th place in the West standings but can tie the Warriors for 6th win a win tonight.

Swingman Gordon Hayward has been cleared to play after missing 10 games with a right shoulder sprain.

He is expected to come off the bench but likely will see limited minutes as he worked to get back into game shape.

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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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