Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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NBA Preview: Utah Jazz (31-35) at Orlando Magic (27-39)

Continuing their six-game road trip, the struggling Utah Jazz will play the Orlando Magic on Thursday night in an effort to salvage their playoff chances.

With a 120-116 defeat in Dallas on Tuesday, Utah dropped its fourth consecutive decision and fell to 0-3 on its crucial road trip. Lauri Markkanen had 33 points in his ninth game in a row with at least 20 points, but the Jazz were unable to recover from the Mavericks’ 8-0 run with less than three minutes left in the game.

Following consecutive defeats in Oklahoma City to begin Utah’s six-game run, the team suffered a home defeat on Feb. 28 to pathetic San Antonio. One of three games during the current skid in which the Jazz failed to reach their season average of 117 points per game, the game against the Spurs saw them score just 94 points.

Despite the absence of leading scorer Markkanen (25.3 points per game), Utah only exceeded its average during this stretch in the loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Thunder, and Portland Trail Blazers are among the teams competing for the four play-in spots in the Western Conference as a result of Utah’s tailspin. On Wednesday, the seven teams were separated by 2.5 games.

In addition, Orlando enters the Eastern Conference without a playoff team. Through Tuesday, the Magic were 4.5 games behind Washington, which is currently in the 10th spot and the last play-in bid.

The four-game homestand continues for Orlando. The Magic lost the first two games, losing 134-123 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday and 122-119 to Portland on Sunday.

Orlando has lost three of its last four games and has given up at least 122 points in all three of them, eight more than its season average of 114 points per game.

Utah’s efforts to reorganize offensively meet Orlando’s desire for greater defensive consistency. The Jazz’s scoring offense ranks seventh in the league heading into Thursday’s matchup.

The Jazz defeated the Jazz 112-108 in Salt Lake City on January 13 thanks to 28 points from Markkanen. He also helped secure the victory over the Magic by blocking a last-second attempt by Franz Wagner to score three points. Wagner scored 26 points for the Magic, while Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr. scored 19 points each.

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