(AP) — After a trying three-game stretch on the road, the Utah Jazz return home to face one of the NBA’s worst teams.
The Jazz look to avoid a third straight loss Friday night when they host the Washington Wizards.
Utah has played five of its last six games on the road, including the last three in three nights. The Jazz opened that stretch with a win over Memphis, but lost the next two against New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
The Jazz (14-14) struggled in both defeats, scoring 80 points against the Hornets and shooting 35.6 percent in a 111-85 defeat to the Thunder on Tuesday. They scored 39 points in the first half, with Al Jefferson scoring 13 of his team-high 15 before the break.
“I’m not going to blame fatigue,” said starting forward Gordon Hayward, who was held scoreless. “That’s just not acceptable.
“Whatever the reason was we’re professionals, so back-to-back-to-back, that’s our job. We’ve got to be prepared and we’ve got to be able to play.”
After being benched early in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Hornets, the Jazz’s starters combined for just 41 points Tuesday. Second-leading scorer Paul Millsap, who averages 15.6 points, was held to a combined 14 in the two losses.
Hayward’s scoreless night, meanwhile, came after an eight-point outing against New Orleans. Starting point guard Devin Harris played a season-low 15 minutes Tuesday, and totaled eight points and five assists in the consecutive defeats.
After a surprising start, Utah has lost seven of nine to drop to .500 for the first time since it was 3-3.
“We can’t panic,” coach Tyrone Corbin said Thursday. “We are fortunate that we had a good run early. We were home for a lot of games and we gave ourselves a little bit of a cushion and an identity of who we want to be. We have an idea of who that should be, we’ve just got to get back to doing that.”
Utah is 11-5 at home, although it has lost two of its last three there.
While the Jazz were held to fewer than 90 points the last two games, the offense could get going against a Wizards team that’s allowed an average of 103.4 points in nine games this month.
But Washington (7-23), which lost its first eight road games, is 2-1 on a five-game trip. After beating Detroit by 21 and Portland by 15, the Wizards fell 102-84 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
John Wall and JaVale McGee each scored 18 points, but after playing the night before, the Wizards shot 39.5 percent while getting outrebounded 51-36. They gave up 19 offensive boards and were outscored 52-37 in the second half.
“We have been playing better and competing, but we are not going to make all of our shots all of the time,” coach Randy Wittman said. “I don’t look at this game as an 18-point loss, we just ran out of gas at the end.”
Washington swept last season’s series against Utah after the Jazz won six of the previous seven meetings.
Wall, who has averaged 11.5 assists in his last four games and scored 29 points against Portland, averaged 23.5 points and 11.0 assists in the two wins last season.