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Big changes could be coming for the Utah Jazz.
While the team will wait and see how Mike Conley does in pregame warmups, there is a good chance that he and veteran forward Rudy Gay will return to the lineup on Wednesday night.
"I feel a lot better. … Each day, it's getting better," Conley said on Monday post-practice. "Today was my first time really practicing with contact. … Last week was just transitioning from walking to jogging to running. I still feel it, but it's obviously good enough to kind of wear it down a little bit and see where it's at."
"It's better," Gay added. "I wanted to take time to get the inflammation down. … It's going to be there but just have to play through some things."
It could be an ideal time for both players to return as the Jazz have another difficult stretch upcoming with three games in four days, including a brutal back-to-back vs. Minnesota and at Denver.
But it all starts with Wednesday's showdown against the defending champion, Warriors — with tipoff set for 7 p.m. MT. Utah fell to Golden State 129-118 in the Bay Area a week and a half ago.
"Credit to the Warriors, but proud of the way our guys hung in," head coach Will Hardy said postgame. "Tough shooting night obviously. ... I thought our guys re-centered themselves after the first quarter. We ended up winning quarters 2, 3, and 4. ... I think for the most part, we played the way we wanted to play."
It appears that Gay will see action for the first time in 3.5 weeks after he suffered a third MCP joint sprain in his left hand. He's since had a brace, a splint, and has now been practicing with his two fingers taped for precautionary reasons — although he doesn't think it'll last long.
"My prediction? The first quarter of whatever game I play in," Gay replied with a laugh when asked when his tape would come off.
Conley is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report, and the team will see how he feels during pregame warmups. He has been out since suffering a popliteus strain in his left leg after colliding with Portland's Jusuf Nurkic on Nov. 19.
However, he's made big strides in the past week after progressing to on-court work and game-like movements. He went through practice on Monday and Tuesday, a very good sign signaling his return is near.
While the Jazz may be getting reinforcements, the Warriors are trending in the opposite direction.
Golden State is expected to be without Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins — all of whom are out for various reasons, although none are expected to be serious.
Even without some of their stars, the Warriors are still formidable with Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson leading the way.
Utah (14-12, 8-4 home / No. 9 Western Conference)
*117.7 Points Per Game (No. 3 in NBA)
*116.1 Offensive Rating (No. 3 in NBA)
*115.5 Points Per Game (No. 23 in NBA)
*113.6 Defensive Rating (No. 25 in NBA)
*Lauri Markkanen: 22.2 points | 8.5 rebounds | 2.2 assists | 41.3% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson: 19.7 points | 4.8 assists | 3.9 rebounds | 35.0% 3P-shooting
*Collin Sexton: 14.2 points | 3.0 assists | 2.5 rebounds | 36.4% 3P-shooting
*Mike Conley: 10.2 points | 7.9 assists | 38.6% 3P-shooting
Golden State (13-12, 2-10 away / No. 10 Western Conference)
*117.2 Points Per Game (No. 5 in NBA)
*113.3 Offensive Rating (No. 9 in NBA)
*116.1 Points Per Game (No. 25 in NBA)
*112.4 Defensive Rating (No. 20 in NBA)
*Klay Thompson: 18.0 points | 3.6 rebounds | 2.5 assists | 39.0% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Poole: 17.0 points | 4.5 assists | 33.3% 3P-shooting
*Jordan Clarkson vs. Klay Thompson
— While the Jazz are expecting two key players back and the Warriors are shorthanded, Wednesday’s showdown has lost a little bit of flavor — but it’ll still provide plenty of excitement. Clarkson has been sensational this year, and with Conley potentially back, could receive a boost from the return of his backcourt mate. Meanwhile, Thompson has been inconsistent this year — but he’s been hot of late and is averaging 22.7 points over his last seven games.
QUESTIONABLE | Mike Conley (popliteus strain left leg)
OUT | Johnny Juzang (G League - Two-Way)
OUT | Micah Potter (G League - Two-Way)
OUT | Andre Iguodala (left hip injury management)
OUT | Steph Curry (Left Ankle Soreness)
OUT | Draymond Green (Left Hip Tightness)
OUT | Andrew Wiggins (Right Adductor Strain)
Time: 7:00 p.m. MST
Location: Vivint Arena/ Salt Lake City, UT
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The KSL Sports Zone