Jazz, Nuggets meet in Western Conference playoff tuneup
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The Utah Jazz were racking up victories and creating momentum for the postseason.
But one dreadful loss left coach Quin Snyder irate and steamed.
The Jazz will try to resume their winning ways on Tuesday when they host the Denver Nuggets, another team headed to the playoffs.
To do that, the Jazz must look past their 113-109 loss to the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Utah (49-31) now looks destined to be the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.
The setback ended a seven-game winning streak and was just the club's second loss in 14 games.
Still, Snyder was in no mood to hear about the stretch of stellar play after his team was outworked by the Lakers, who had a commanding 49-35 rebounding edge.
"Regardless of where you're seeded, you have to play well and play a certain way to win," Snyder told reporters. "We've won some games, so sometimes that masks some things we weren't doing well. Everyone has been talking about the winning streak, but that doesn't mean anything.
"We've tried to talk about playing well and getting better."
Utah stands two games behind the fourth-place Portland Trail Blazers (51-29) in the West. One more Portland win or one more Utah loss will give the Trail Blazers homecourt advantage in the probable first-round series with the Jazz.
Utah's chances of getting back on track Tuesday are helped by the fact it has posted eight straight home victories over the Nuggets.
Denver (53-27) was recently battling the Golden State Warriors for the No. 1 seed and now finds itself trying to fend off the Houston Rockets (53-28) for the No. 2 seed.
The Nuggets rested All-Star center Nikola Jokic, veteran power forward Paul Millsap and point guard Jamal Murray on Sunday when they suffered a 115-108 road loss against Portland.
Denver coach Michael Malone said it was more important to get some of his tired players rest than to get caught up in the seeding battles.
"We're just going to worry about ourselves," Malone told reporters. "Wherever we wind up playing, if we're the No. 3 seed, great. If we can hold onto the No. 2 seed, that's great as well."
The Nuggets were encouraged by the play of shooting guard Gary Harris in the loss to the Trail Blazers.
Harris scored 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting after having 11 or fewer points in each of the previous eight games.
"One of the things that I was really hoping would happen was getting Gary into a rhythm, getting him some confidence," Malone told reporters of Harris. "The way that Gary was attacking the basket and finishing, that was great to see. Hopefully that can continue in these last two (games) and into the postseason."
Meanwhile, Jokic is expected back in the lineup on Tuesday. He is averaging 17.0 points, 14.7 points and 9.7 assists in three games against Utah this season, and had 28 points and matched his career best of 21 rebounds in a 114-108 road loss on Jan. 23.
Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell made six 3-pointers and scored 35 points in that contest. Mitchell is averaging 25 points against Denver this season.
However, Mitchell had a rare subpar outing against the Lakers as he was just 5-of-17 shooting while scoring 19 points.
Utah power forward Derrick Favors (back) and swingman Kyle Korver (knee) each will miss their fifth consecutive games. Point guard Ricky Rubio (quadriceps) will likely miss his second straight.
--Field Level Media
Updated April 8, 2019