By Alan Ferguson
Posted Apr 12, 2012 2:01PM
A rash of injuries has come at an inopportune time for the Utah Jazz, but Gordon Hayward says he and his teammates remain determined to overcome that obstacle.
The Jazz will try to boost their playoff hopes by winning a third consecutive game Friday night when they visit another injury-plagued team, the New Orleans Hornets.
Already without Josh Howard and Raja Bell, both of whom are dealing with left knee injuries, Utah (31-28) lost two more players this week. Earl Watson is out indefinitely with a torn right meniscus that will likely require surgery, while C.J. Miles has a strained left calf that will be evaluated next week.
Despite those injuries, the Jazz have won back-to-back games after dropping six of nine. Hayward scored a season-high 29 points in Wednesday's 103-91 win at Houston.
The Rockets are among the teams Utah is chasing for one of the final playoff berths in the Western Conference.
"The mentality now is that we've just got to find ways to win," Hayward said. "This is a huge win for us as a team, and I don't think you can ever doubt the heart of our team. We're down to 10 players now, or something like that. We're just out there fighting, competing and trying to find ways to win."
The Jazz will try to earn another victory against the Hornets, who have won three of five while also short-handed. Jarrett Jack is out for the season with a stress fracture in his foot, and an injury-plagued Eric Gordon has been dealing with tightness in his lower back.
New Orleans (16-42) is also playing without Emeka Okafor (knee) and Chris Johnson (concussion).
After playing three straight games, Gordon missed his second in a row Wednesday, a 105-96 victory over Sacramento. Jason Smith picked up the slack with 22 points after tallying a career-high 26 during a home win over Minnesota on Saturday.
"I'm trying to be more aggressive," Smith said. "Over time you develop your stuff in practice. ... I think that's what (coach Monty Williams) has allowed me to do. He sees me work in practice and he knows how hard I work."
Marco Belinelli added 21 during his team's fourth win in six home games. He had 10 of his 13 points in the first half of an 86-80 home victory over Utah on Feb. 13.
Chris Kaman had a season-high 27 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way in New Orleans' third victory in five matchups with the Jazz. The Hornets have also prevailed in two of the past three home meetings.
Utah, though, won 94-90 in Salt Lake City on Jan. 2. Devin Harris hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1:57 remaining in that game and converted three free throws in the final 15 seconds.
Harris, who scored 19 points in that victory, is averaging 19.3 over his last four games, nearly double his season mark.
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