One month ago, the Utah Jazz were simply trying to move into the top eight in the Western Conference. A remarkable run now has them believing they can capture the second seed for the playoffs.
The Jazz look to extend their season-high winning streak to nine and continue their dominance over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Following a two-point loss at Memphis on Jan. 8, Utah dropped to 19-17 and sat in 10th place in the West. The Jazz, though, have since won 12 of 13 to pull within two games of Northwest Division-leading Denver for the conference's second seed.
Utah's lone loss during this stretch came at Denver on Jan. 17, and it was able to avenge that defeat and take a big step toward catching the Nuggets with Saturday's 116-106 win. Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko each had 22 points and Carlos Boozer had 19 points and 13 rebounds.
"It's huge. We've got a chance to get the second (playoff) seed," said Boozer, who sat out the previous three games with a strained right calf. "If we can maintain our streak, we have a chance to get it maybe even before the All-Star break gets here."
Utah's offense is leading the way during the win streak -- the team's longest since a 12-game run from Feb. 11-March 10 last season -- by averaging 111.3 points on 53.4 percent shooting. The Jazz (31-18) have scored at least 100 points in each of the last 10 contests, their longest such stretch since doing so in 12 straight from Feb. 24-March 16, 1998.
"As a team we're playing really great basketball right now," said Kirilenko, averaging 18.6 points on 72.2 percent shooting during the winning streak. "This is the basketball we're supposed to play."
The Jazz are 26-5 when scoring at least 100 points and their prolific offense could spell trouble for a Clippers team that is 2-21 when allowing at least 100.
These teams haven't met since Oct. 30, when Utah won 111-98 for its 10th victory in 12 games against Los Angeles (21-29). Rarely have the games been close, with the Jazz winning the last five by an average of 18.4 points.
The Clippers are coming off Saturday's 98-81 loss to San Antonio in their first game since Mike Dunleavy resigned as coach and was replaced on an interim basis by Kim Hughes. Los Angeles didn't look much different under Hughes, losing for the 11th time in 15 games.
Chris Kaman had 21 points and Eric Gordon added 20, but they were the only Clippers to score in double figures as the team turned the ball over 21 times.
"We're not going to win games playing this way and as we get better, we'll have more and more confidence in each other and get in better shape," point guard Baron Davis said. "I think our brighter days are definitely ahead of us."
Kaman was named to replace injured Portland guard Brandon Roy in this weekend's All-Star game Monday.