A pair of last place teams try to kick start things tonight when the Utah Jazz visit the Sacramento Kings.
Utah had a surprising 9-4 start to its season but has come down to earth since and finds itself in the cellar of the Northwest, a distant 11 games behind Oklahoma City. However, just two games separate the Jazz from second-place Denver in the jumbled division.
The Jazz entered the All-Star break on a three-game skid with the latest setback coming at Minnesota last Wednesday. The Wolves' Luke Ridnour finished with 17 points in that one, none bigger than his floater at the final buzzer, lifting Minnesota to a 100-98 comeback victory.
With seven ticks on the clock, the Timberwolves inbounded the ball to J.J. Barea, who dished it back to Ridnour. Ridnour split the defense at the top of the key and let go of a floater from the foul line that hit nothing but nylon to complete an 18-point rally for Minnesota.
Paul Millsap led Utah with 25 points to go with nine rebounds, while Al Jefferson contributed a double-double with 18 points and 11 boards for Utah, which is just 6-13 since its hot start and a dismal 3-11 on the road overall. Josh Howard added 19 points.
"It felt like we were in control the whole game. The crowd was out of it completely," said Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward. "They hit some big shots and you have to give them credit. They got the crowd and momentum shifted. We have to be able to finish games."
The Kings managed to snap a six-game losing streak before the All-Star Break, earning a 115-107 win in Washington to salvage the finale of a six-game road trip.
Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans scored 22 points apiece in that one, while rookie Isaiah Thomas had 18 points and DeMarcus Cousins netted 16 along with 16 rebounds.
"It's tough when you're not used to losing so much," said Evans. "We are trying to turn things around."
The bigger news in Sacramento came off the court on Monday. The city, the Kings and the NBA announced a tentative deal to finance a new arena for the club, something that will keep the franchise in Sac-Town.
Sacramento's city council will vote on the plan March 6.
In the proposal, the city will contribute $200-$250 million of the estimated $367 million arena, with arena operator AEG and the owners picking up the rest.
The announcement comes less than a year after Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson -- a former NBA All-Star -- lobbied for more time to propose a new arena plan after the Maloof family, the club's majority owners since 1999, had been considering a move to Anaheim's Honda Center because of financial issues in the city and with the building now known as Power Balance Pavilion.
The arena, if approved by Sacramento's city council, would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown rail yards.
"This is a great day for Sacramento, a great day for the Maloof family, a great day for the NBA," Joe Maloof said. "I'd like to thank the mayor for all of his hard work and efforts throughout the years and, of course, the commissioner for all of his support and everything he's done for the NBA. Our family is just so excited that we have the framework for a deal. We've always said we wanted to stay in Sacramento and now here's our opportunity."
The Kings have played in Sacramento since 1985, after relocating from Kansas City, and have played in the building formerly known as Arco Arena since the 1988-89 campaign.
"[We wanted to help] cement the future of the NBA in Sacramento. With the leadership of the mayor and the leadership of the Maloof family, I think this preliminary framework that we have is going to do just that," NBA commissioner David Stern said.
The Kings have lost four of the past five meetings to the Jazz.