Struggling Late in Season

The struggling Utah Jazz were fortunate their last game to play a team that had little incentive to win. Their opponent in this game, however, has many reasons to want a victory.

The Jazz continue their bid for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs Saturday when they host the Phoenix Suns, who are trying to hang onto the second seed in the Western Conference.

Oddsmakers have made Phoenix -4 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 214 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 65% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -4 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Utah (48-30) already has clinched the Northwest Division title and can be seeded no lower than fourth, but the Jazz still are 1 1/2 games behind fifth seed Houston to determine home-court advantage in the first round. They do have the luxury of playing three of their final four games at EnergySolutions Arena, where the Jazz are 29-9.

``We have to try to use this for momentum the last three games,'' said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, who had 32 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in a 104-89 win at Dallas on Friday. ``We're not worried about Houston. If we only worry about ourselves, maybe we'll catch them.''

Boozer has averaged 17.3 points and 12.7 rebounds while recording three consecutive double-doubles overall and has averaged 21.5 and 14.0, respectively, in two wins over Phoenix.

Friday's victory snapped a season-high, five-game skid for the Jazz, who took advantage of the top-seeded Mavericks resting regulars Jerry Stackhouse. Jason Terry and Erick Dampier ahead of the postseason.

``I don't care if it's 5-on-0, as long as we got a win,'' said guard Derek Fisher, who added 15 points. ``We understand and respect the fact Dallas had a couple of guys out. That doesn't take any feel-good away from us.''

The Pacific Division champion Suns (60-19), who will be seeded no worse than third in the West, need to win this game to maintain a cushion for second place over San Antonio, who they lead by two games but also have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to them.

Besides fending off the Spurs, the Suns are trying to avoid their first season-series sweep to the Jazz since the 1999-2000 season. Utah has won the three games between the teams by a combined 11 points, with guard Deron Williams totaling 53 points and 24 assists in the last two contests.

He had 28 points and 10 assists while Mehmet Okur added 29 points and 12 rebounds as the Jazz escaped Phoenix with a 108-105 win without an injured Boozer in the most recent meeting on Feb. 3.

The Suns reached 60 wins for just the third time in franchise history with a 93-85 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. Steve Nash had 26 points and 14 assists for Phoenix, which shot a season-low 38.2 percent but still won its fourth consecutive in large part by holding superstar Kobe Bryant to 17 points.

``We shot 38 percent and we won a game,'' Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``I think that definitely (is) the news. Our defense was stellar."

Nash, the reigning two-time MVP, has recorded six double-doubles in his last eight games, averaging 19.1 points and 11.5 assists in helping the Suns go 7-1 in that span.

By: Marc Young - - Email Us

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