Jazz hope to keep roaring
The Jazz roar into March as one of the NBA's hottest teams.
Utah is 19-4 since Jan. 9, heading into Monday tonight's game at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Jazz went 10-3 in February, including 5-1 on the road and 4-0 on the second night of back-to-back games.
"Great February," Carlos Boozer said. "Looking forward to March."
Just ahead, however, is a treacherous stretch during which Utah plays 10 of 15 games on the road and four back-to-back.
Deron Williams didn't seem too concerned, however, when he was asked if the compact, road-oriented schedule could be a barrier between the Jazz and a home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Referring to a sloppy 103-99 loss at Sacramento on Friday night, Williams said, "We're a better road team now. Just throw [that] one out because we are definitely a better road team. We've been able to find ways to get stops on the road, execute down the stretch and win ballgames."
The Jazz are 14-13 on the road this season, after winning seven of their last eight, including games at San Antonio, Portland, Houston and New Orleans.
Considering the fact Utah went 32-50 on the road in the previous two years and hasn't won as many as 21 road games since 2000-01, its current streak has been a welcome change of pace.
"Hopefully, we'll keep giving the [necessary] effort," said coach Jerry Sloan, "because this team still has to learn how to consistently win on the road.
"To lose some of the games we've lost on the road, you don't expect that, given our record at home. It should be fairly consistent, if we are trying to do it together."
The Jazz have managed only two winning road records in 11 seasons since they appeared in the 1998 NBA Finals.
Utah has finished with a winning road record only seven times in franchise history.
Like Williams, however, Sloan seems confident that the Jazz can stay hot and keep pressing first-place Denver in the Northwest Division race.
Pointing out that Utah just finished playing eight games in 12 days following the All-Star break, he said, "It will be tough, if we aren't ready to play.
"But a month or so ago, everybody said, 'This is going to be a difficult time for you.' ... The bottom line is, if you win games, you're all right. It's a difficult schedule only if you don't win."
The Jazz tuned up for their March on the road with a 133-110 win over Houston on Saturday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Williams finished February with a 35-point, 13-assist performance that ranks as one of the best in his career.
The Jazz's chance of success the rest of the season will jump sharply if he continues to play like he did against the Rockets, who were impressed.
"Deron Williams came out and played great," said Aaron Brooks.
"I said something to him," said Kevin Martin, "because he came out really looking to attack. I was like, 'You're feeling it tonight, huh?' And he was like, 'I had a bad game [Friday] night.' Great players in this league, that's what they do. ... That's why he's an All-Star."
The Jazz could be short-handed against the Clippers.
Forward Andrei Kirilenko continues to be bothered by recurring back spasms. His availability against the Clippers will be a game-time decision.
Kirilenko has missed four of Utah's last five games.
At Staples Center
Tipoff » 8:30 p.m. MST
TV » FSN
Radio » 1320 AM, 98.7 FM
Record » Jazz 38-21, Clippers 24-34
Season Series » Jazz, 2-0
Last Meeting » Jazz, 109-99 (Feb. 9)
Line » Jazz by 6
About the Jazz » This is their ninth game in the last 14 days. ... They have won 11 of their last 13 games against the Clippers, including six in a row. ... Since becoming a full-time starter six games ago, Wesley Matthews averages 10.5 points on 26-for-54 shooting. ... With 1,175 wins, Jerry Sloan is 20 behind Pat Riley for third place on the all-time list of winningest NBA coaches.
About the Clippers » They have won three straight at home over Sacramento (99-89), Charlotte (98-94) and Detroit (97-91). ... F Blake Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, has missed the season with a knee injury. ... They rank 27th in the league in scoring (95.7) and 28th in three-point shooting (.326). ... Their top scorers are C Chris Kaman (19.6) and G Eric Gordon (17.3).