SALT LAKE CITY — Four in a row.
For the Utah Jazz, those four little words have double meaning tonight.
First, they’re riding a four-game winning streak into Staples Center, where they’ll meet the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.
Second — and perhaps more important to Utah fans — is the four straight wins the Jazz have taken from their longtime Western Conference rivals.
Never before in the regular-season history of the franchise has a Jazz team ever won four in a row vs. L.A.
Dating back to the final two meetings last season and the first two this season, Utah (23-19) has outscored the Lakers (17-25) by an average score of 103-96.
Of course to the current group of Jazz players, all-time franchise history doesn’t mean much. They’ve won four in a row and eight of their last 10 but on Wednesday they narrowly avoided an embarrassing slip-up against the lowly Washington Wizards.
Utah led by as many as 22 points in the first half but had to hold on tightly in the fourth quarter in order to preserve a 92-88 win.
Understandably, the Jazz aren’t interested in the past, only the present.
“We just need to go out there and get us a win and try to come home with a victory, that’s all,” center Al Jefferson said.
The odds of that happening would seem to weigh in the Jazz’s favor these days. Once considered contenders for a Western Conference title this season, L.A. now is deep in the standings, sitting in third place in the Pacific Division and fourth from the bottom in the conference.
The Lakers come into tonight’s game having lost four in a row and 10 of their last 12.
Calling them a team in disarray would be something of an understatement.
They held a clear-the-air team meeting prior to Wednesday’s game with the Grizzlies, then went out and stumbled, 106-93.
Center Dwight Howard aggravated a sore shoulder in the second quarter and did not return.
His status for tonight’s game has yet to be determined.
The Lakers are allowing on average 101.5 points per game.
“We make these teams look a lot better offensively than they really are,” forward Pau Gasol said. “That’s something that’s pretty negative. Pretty alarming.”
The Lakers’ soap opera atmosphere means little the the Jazz, however.
“I’m not really knowing what’s going on with them, it really ain’t my problem,” Jefferson said. “Every team goes through ups and downs and right now they’re on the down side.”
Meanwhile, the Jazz have been on an upswing.
Although they have struggled to put teams away, coach Tyrone Corbin said his players are good enough to play with anyone. However, he’d like to see them establish their own identity rather than playing to their competition.
“I think if we get to where we play a certain way against anybody, it won’t matter,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we can’t play up or down to anybody. We’re learning to play a certain way. We can’t look at who we’re playing against, we’ve got to figure out how to play against all competition.”
JAZZ NOTES: The list of reserves for the Western Conference All-Star team was released Thursday and no Jazz players were on it. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson garnered consideration but were left off the 12-man roster. The Jazz have not had an All-Star since Deron Williams in 2011.