Despite a glut of injuries, the Utah Jazz have climbed above .500 for the first time in two months.
Now, Utah (22-21) wants to keep it that way as it prepares to host the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.
The Jazz are coming off a 113-95 win on their home court over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. It was the eighth win in the past 12 games for Utah, which hopes to reach the playoffs for the third season in a row.
The recent hot streak has taken place amid injuries to all three Jazz point guards: Ricky Rubio (right groin strain), Dante Exum (left ankle sprain) and Raul Neto (left groin strain). Several other players also are injured including Thabo Sefolosha (right groin strain), Grayson Allen (right ankle sprain) and Tony Bradley (right knee surgery).
The short-handed squad has turned to Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles to help handle duties at the point-guard spot. Mitchell shined against the Lakers with 33 points on 14-for-24 shooting, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
Mitchell said he and his teammates are determined to further the Jazz's progress as Rubio and other hobbled players are forced to watch and wait for their injuries to heal.
"I think this team has been big with the 'next man up' since last year, since I got here," Mitchell said this week to the Deseret News. "This is just another circumstance or instance for us to continue to push."
The outlook is not nearly as sunny for Chicago (10-32).
The Bulls have lost six games in a row, including a 146-109 thrashing by the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Friday night. The Warriors jumped to a 43-17 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
Chicago has dropped each of its last three games by double digits and is on track to win only 19 games. The group's .238 winning percentage trails only the teams of 2000-01 (.183) and 1999-2000 (.207) for worst in franchise history.
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen will try to shake off a recent cold spell. He has scored fewer than 20 points in seven of his past eight games.
The talented second-year player sprained his right elbow during practice in the preseason, and although he returned to action Dec. 1, he still is not fully comfortable.
Markkanen scored eight points on 3-for-8 shooting in 26 minutes Friday against Golden State. He missed all four of his 3-point shots.
"In fairness to him, it's safe to say that thing isn't 100 percent yet," Bulls head coach Jim Boylen said this week in comments published by the Chicago Sun-Times. "Is it close? Yeah. It's got to stick in his mind. That was a very serious injury, and maybe what people don't realize is that it is a very painful injury. Yeah, it's going to take some time."
This is the first of two regular-season meetings between the teams. The Bulls will host the Jazz on March 23.
Utah is 10-8 on its home court. Chicago is 5-16 on the road.
--Field Level Media