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Wizards vs. Jazz preview: Utah arrives in second night of back-to-back

The Jazz are looking to return to winning ways after a three-game slump.

Washington Wizards v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards are hosting the Utah Jazz Thursday night in the second night of a back-to-back homestand. Both teams are entering the matchup on the heels of losing streaks: the Wizards have lost five straight, while the Jazz dropped each of their last three games.

The Wizards, as has been well documented, have been atrocious this season. Their -9.5 point differential is the third worst in the league, and their seven wins on the season are the fewest in franchise history through this many games.

Meanwhile, the Jazz seemed just as miserable before coach Will Hardy adjusted the starting lineup early in the season. After opening the season 4-11 in their first 15 games, Utah has been playing phenomenal basketball and has gone 18-12 since that start. Utah is firmly in the play-in picture behind their improvisational and free-flowing brand of basketball. Beyond Lauri Markkanen, there is no star power to speak of in Salt Lake City, yet the squad that Danny Ainge assembled via the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert trades decisively defeated the 76ers, Bucks and Nuggets all in the same week earlier this month.

After recent reports suggesting all Wizards other than Bilal Coulibaly are available, the rookie will hopefully be receiving some increased responsibilities, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Coulibaly has already flexed his incredible defensive muscle all season while remaining mostly hidden on offense; hopefully the supposedly impending tear-down yields more offensive touches for the talented young forward.

Both the Wizards and Jazz have completely clean injury reports. The key matchup to watch is Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma; Kuzma’s defense has waned this season with a much-increased offensive responsibility, and Markkanen is one of the most effortlessly scoring forwards in the game.