A blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets didn’t knock the Utah Jazz out of playoff contention. Not even close. It did, however, remove what little cushion the team may have had.
With six games left, the Jazz need to lose one game fewer than the Los Angeles Lakers to earn the eighth seed. But with New Orleans coming to EnergySolutions Arena on Friday, the Jazz are refocusing the loss which snapped a five-game winning streak as a positive: A reminder of how they need to play to be successful.
“That game for us is a good learning point,” guard Randy Foye said. “Just like, ‘Hey, you’re not invincible. You won five in a row, but you didn’t win 27 in a row.’ ”
Three of the Jazz’s remaining games are against teams destined for the lottery, starting Friday against the Hornets, against whom the Jazz are 2-1 this season.
Coach Tyrone Corbin said the loss to the Nuggets was an “eye-opener” for the Jazz.
“We can … say, ‘Look, if we don’t play the way we need to play, with the tempo and understanding on the defensive end and create offense there, we’ll struggle,’ ” Corbin said. “So we will use it to make sure we send that message home.”
In their five-game winning streak the Jazz were dominant, winning each game by at least nine points. However, four of those opponents will be in the lottery, and each was missing at least one top player.
Even those victories, however, showed signs of the problems facing the Jazz. In Monday’s win over Portland, the Trail Blazers made 58.2 percent of their shots, and on Wednesday, the Nuggets shot 56.2 percent and outscored the Jazz 58-38 in the paint.
Corbin says the Jazz should aim to keep teams to 42 percent from the field and that points allowed in the paint is the best indicator of how a team plays on defense.
“We want to take away the easy baskets and make teams shoot the ball outside,” Corbin said. “… To give up that high of percentage, depends on where the shots are coming from and get them. We were able in the other game [against Portland] to get more shots because the pace of the game was better.”
Paul Millsap said the Jazz don’t necessarily need to start over after the loss to the Nuggets.
“We always got room for improvement,” he said. “There’s no perfect team out there. You always try to get better. … Refocusing isn’t really the key; I think we’re a focused team, we know what’s at stake, so going to get out there and make it happen.”
After Friday’s game, the Jazz play at Golden State, against Oklahoma City and Minnesota, and at Minnesota and Memphis to close the season.
Jazz vs. Hornets
O EnergySolutions Arena
Records • Utah 39-37, New Orleans 26-49
Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Season series • Jazz lead 2-1
About the Jazz • A 113-96 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday snapped a five-game Jazz winning streak. … Randy Foye and Mo Williams combined to shoot just 2-of-11 from 3 against the Nuggets. … The Jazz sit half a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth in the West.
About the Hornets • Leading scorer Eric Gordon will play for the first time this season against the Jazz. He averages 16.8 points and 3.1 assists per game. … No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis averages 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game.