The Utah Jazz's surge over the past three weeks has pushed them to the top of the Northwest Division. The Memphis Grizzlies, meanwhile, are laboring through another disappointing season leading to a major personnel shakeup.
The Jazz look to extend the NBA's longest current winning streak to eight games on Saturday night when they visit new-look Memphis after the trade of star Pau Gasol.
With another season slipping away, the Grizzlies (13-33) on Friday dealt the 7-foot Gasol - their second-leading scorer (18.9) and leading rebounder (8.8) - to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown, rookie Javaris Crittenton, guard Aaron McKie, the rights to Gasol's brother Marc, two first-round draft picks and cash considerations.
"We're a 13-win team, so when you're in that situation, you've got to make moves,'' Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said.
Memphis has dropped 23 of its last 30 and owns the fourth-worst record in the NBA.
The Jazz (29-18), meanwhile, have been red-hot as they look to win eight straight for the first time since Nov. 10-24, 2006. They're outscoring opponents by an average of 11.7 points during their current run.
"Everybody is really feeling good now,'' Mehmet Okur said after Friday's 96-87 win over Washington. "It's fun. We're really enjoying it.''
On Jan. 5, Utah had the ninth-best record in the West at 18-17, and trailed Northwest Division-leading Denver by 3 1/2 games. Now, the Jazz have the fourth-best record in the conference with a one-game division lead over the Nuggets.
Okur had 27 points and 11 rebounds on Friday to help lead the Jazz while Carlos Boozer, who was playing in his first game since being selected to his second consecutive All-Star game, struggled.
Boozer leads Utah in scoring (22.0) and rebounding (10.6), but had a season-low four points on 1-of-9 shooting.
"It's a team sport, that's what's great about it,'' he said. "When you're not playing well, somebody's always going to be able to pick you up. This isn't tennis.''
Boozer hopes to bounce back versus the Grizzlies, against whom he's averaging 29.2 points - his most against any West opponent - on 67.0 percent shooting and 12.8 rebounds in five games against since the start of last season.
He had 31 points and seven rebounds in Utah's 118-94 victory over Memphis on Nov. 10.
Deron Williams had 20 points and 13 assists against the Grizzlies in that contest, and is averaging 15.8 points and 13.2 assists in five games against them since 2006-07. Williams had 11 points and 12 assists on Friday for his sixth straight double-double.
Memphis is coming off a 106-102 loss to Denver on Wednesday after leading by seven points with 3:12 remaining.
"It's the same story as before,'' said Darko Milicic, who had 14 points and matched a career high with 16 rebounds. "(We) just can't find ways to win.''
Rudy Gay had 30 points and 10 rebounds against the Nuggets, and will likely get more offensive looks with the departure of Gasol, who missed Wednesday's game with a sore back.
Gay has topped the 30-point mark 10 times in his two-year career, with four of those games coming without Gasol in the lineup.
Gay, who is averaging a team-high 19.8 points, had 18 on 6-of-11 shooting against the Jazz in November after scoring 18 on 6-of-25 shooting in four games against them last season.
Mike Miller, who is averaging 16.8 points, had just six points against Utah earlier this season. Miller had 22 points and nine boards on Wednesday.
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