NBA regular season

Jazz, in quest of clinching top seed, host lowly Rockets

Jazz, in quest of clinching top seed, host lowly Rockets

SIXTH MAN. Jordan Clarkson looks to step up anew as the Jazz continue to manage even minus team star Donovan Mitchell.

Photo by Jeffrey Swinger/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Jazz go for win No. 50 in a matchup pitting the team with the league's best record against the one with the worst

On Friday afternoon, the Utah Jazz announced that All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell will be sidelined at least one more week due to his sprained ankle.

On Friday night, the Jazz looked as if they might not need Mitchell.

They will, of course, if their stay in the playoffs is long, but they were in tune without Mitchell in a 127-120 win over the Denver Nuggets. Leading the way was Bojan Bogdanovic, who hit 16-of-23 field-goal attempts and 8-of-11 three-pointers en route to a career-high 48 points.

With all due respect to MVP contender Nikola Jokic, who scored 24 points for the Nuggets, it was Bogdanovic who looked like the MVP based on this performance, which led the Jazz (49-18) to their fourth straight win.

“I mean, it was just a big night. Every shot that I took, I thought that it was going in,” Bogdanovic said. “The team was really looking for me; all game long the coaching staff are trying to draw plays for me. So, a big night, like I said, and also, it’s a big, big win for us.”

Bogdanovic will have another opportunity to find the hoop on Saturday night, May 8 (Sunday, May 9, Manila time) in Salt Lake City when the Jazz host the Houston Rockets (16-51) in a matchup pitting the team with the league’s best record against the one with the worst.

Considering the Rockets have lost four straight and 19 of their past 22 games, it probably won’t take another career-best outing by Bogdanovic for the Jazz to become the first NBA team to reach the 50-win mark this season.

The Phoenix Suns kept up with the Jazz in the race for the No. 1 overall seed and the top spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Phoenix (48-19) beat the New York Knicks 128-105 at home to remain one game behind Utah.

Utah and Phoenix each have five games remaining. The Suns own the tiebreaker by virtue of their 3-0 series victory over the Jazz this season.

While the Jazz were wrapping up the Northwest Division title with the win over the second-place Nuggets on Friday, the Bucks took care of the Rockets in Milwaukee. It was somewhat of a moral victory for Houston, which put the pressure on Milwaukee most of the way in their 141-133 loss.

“This,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said, “is definitely something that we can look back on and hopefully build from.”

Kenyon Martin Jr led Houston with 26 points, while Kelly Olynyk added 23 points and 12 rebounds.

The Jazz were able to win in their high-scoring affair in part thanks to the defense by Rudy Gobert, who had a key block late in the game. 

Jordan Clarkson, the top contender for the Sixth Man award this season, also had 21 points and 8 assists for the Jazz.

Jokic flirted with a triple-double but fell short with 13 assists and 9 rebounds to go with his 24 points.

Gobert gave credit to Bogdanovic, who is coming on late in the season after being hampered by his surgically repaired wrist.

“Obviously, early in the season, because of his wrist, he was a little bothered and was maybe a little scared to play through contact. But the last few weeks, the last few months, he’s been attacking the rim, and his finishing has been huge for us,” Gobert said. “When he’s able to put pressure on the rim, and shoot the way he always shoots, he’s probably one of the best scorers in the game.” –