NBA Basketball

Short-handed Jazz start six-game trip in visit to Thunder

Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy wants his team to get back to the basics.

Hardy is hoping Utah can bounce back from a home loss against San Antonio Tuesday night as the Jazz begin a season-long, six-game road trip at the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

Three nights after Utah easily beat the visiting Spurs 118-102 on Saturday, the Jazz wasted an opportunity to move above .500 in a 102-94 loss on Tuesday.

"We have 20 turnovers to prove that we just sort of refused to make the simple play over and over and over again," Hardy said after his club fell to 31-32 Tuesday. "We would have little pockets where we did and then we would just kind of go somewhere else. Like, I don't think it's because anybody's selfish. I know the guys on our team and I know their approach every day.

"I know they want to win. But sometimes, you just have to snap out of it a little bit and recognize what's working for us and what's not."

Over the last four games, Utah has averaged 19.5 turnovers per game, committing at least 20 in all but one of those games.

The first two games of Utah's trip are against the Thunder. They will play again Sunday night.

Both the Jazz and Thunder have been short-handed since the All-Star break.

Utah's Collin Sexton has missed the past three games with a left hamstring strain, while Jordan Clarkson sat out Tuesday's game with a right thumb sprain. Clarkson participated in a portion of Thursday's practice, but it remains unclear whether he will be able to return Friday.

Ochai Agbaji suffered a right lower leg contusion in Tuesday's loss, but is expected to play Friday.

The Thunder figure to be without All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the fifth consecutive game. Gilgeous-Alexander recently suffered an abdominal strain, though he has also been in the NBA's health and safety protocol over the last two games.

While Gilgeous-Alexander is expected to return before long, Oklahoma City will be without forward Kenrich Williams for the remainder of the year. Williams suffered a scapholunate ligament rupture in his left wrist in Tuesday's loss to Sacramento. The Thunder announced Thursday that Williams would undergo season-ending surgery.

While Williams' numbers aren't overwhelming -- 8.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in 53 games -- he's been a major factor in Oklahoma City's success this season. The Thunder outscored opponents by 4.0 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the floor, while they have a -0.7 net rating without Williams. He also leads the NBA with 26 drawn charges this season.

Oklahoma City had been in the thick of the race for a spot in the play-in tournament, but a season-long, five-game losing streak has put those chances in peril.

Josh Giddey finished a rebound shy of a triple-double -- 17 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds -- in Wednesday's 123-117 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers, drawing praise from Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault for the way he attacked Los Angeles' smaller guards.

But Giddey is looking for more.

"It can't be a sometime(s) thing," Giddey said of the aggressiveness. "It has to be every night."

Friday's game is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. Utah won the first, 120-119 in overtime, on Feb. 23 in Salt Lake City behind 43 points from Lauri Markkanen.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 2, 2023

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