SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Utah Jazz already were holding down the fourth spot in the Western Conference before two of their more recently dormant offensive players began taking flight. They also continue to set the pace defensively for the entire NBA.
This is probably not what the home team is dying to see when the Jazz play a rare matinee Sunday against the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center.
"It's never easy in this league," Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said. "You just have to keep working."
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The Jazz (38-24), competing to host a first-round playoff series after missing the dance the past four seasons, are proof of that. They're 31-16 since an uneven start this season and will try to avoid losing three games in a four-game stretch for only the third time in that span.
Offensively, the Jazz (100.4 points per game) are not overpowering but they've tallied at least 105 points in eight of their past 12 games. That's a trend that figures to continue if the Jazz get the same lift they received from George Hill and Derrick Favors in a 112-97 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Hill, averaging 17.6 points in 32 minutes a game this season, scored 34 points on 10-for-12 shooting from the field and 12-for-12 accuracy from the free-throw line. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hill became only the ninth player in NBA history to score at least 34 points on no more than 12 shots from the field while joining Hall of Famer Karl Malone as the only Utah player to do it.
Favors, averaging 9.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, had 19 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes, a performance similar to when he averaged 16 points and nine rebounds last season. He had 13 and five, respectively, in the opening 12 minutes when Utah took control.
"As a team, I want to see us be consistent and put games together where we're taking care of business," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder told the Salt Lake Tribune after the game. "That's hard for us to do unless Derrick is being Derrick. He's an important part of what we do."
The Kings are still in the early stages of figuring out what to do without DeMarcus Cousins. Sacramento (25-36) has lost three straight after winning their opening contest without the former franchise player. They did crack the century mark in a 109-100 loss to the Nets on Wednesday but never led and were down 21-6 out of the gates.
They have not produced a 20-point scorer, and are averaging 91.0 points while shooting 42 percent from the field in the past three contests, and have not led any of them by more than six points
"Just too much dribbling," Kings forward Arron Afflalo said. "If you have a lane, take it. If you don't, move it to an open teammate. ... Just move the ball."
The two teams split their first two games this season in Utah, with the Kings winning 94-93 on Dec. 21, as Kings guard Ty Lawson made 7 of 11 shots en route to 19 points, and Sacramento rallied from 20 down.
The Jazz play the first of back-to-back contests. Utah is 7-7 overall in their first seven back-to-back sets this season and has been swept in two of its past three back-to-back affairs. They've dropped the second of back-to-backs three straight times.