Officially out of the postseason for the first time in five years, the Utah Jazz can only hope to finish as strong as possible. A game against the lowly Sacramento Kings could help them start a late-season push.
The Jazz look to end a seven-game losing streak Sunday night in what could be their final visit to Sacramento.
Despite starting the season 15-5, the Jazz (36-40) were eliminated from playoff contention Friday with a 96-85 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Utah's promising season hit a rough patch when Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan abruptly retired Feb. 10. Less than two weeks later, the team had to adjust to the loss of All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who was dealt to New Jersey for Devin Harris and rookie Derrick Favors.
"We can't get in now, but we'll continue to play hard, try and win ballgames and develop the guys," said coach Tyrone Corbin, 5-17 since replacing Sloan.
The Jazz, trying to end their longest skid since an 0-9 stretch from March 4-19, 2005, also have been hampered by a number of key injuries. With starters Andrei Kirilenko (knee), Harris (hamstring) and Raja Bell (calf) all sidelined along with reserve Ronnie Price (leg), Utah had just nine healthy players and used its 17th different starting lineup Friday.
A depleted roster may not be as much of a factor against Sacramento (21-54), owner of the Western Conference's second-worst record. Utah has won eight of the past 10 meetings and is looking to sweep the Kings for the second time in three seasons.
Sacramento (21-54), tied with Cleveland for the league's worst home record at 10-28, has lost two straight following a season-best four-game winning streak.
"It's unfortunately coming down at the end," center Samuel Dalembert said. "I think through our experience and during the season we learned a lot. We learned to stick with each other. We learned to really get each other's back. We still have a lot of work to do but overall we can go a long way."
The Kings are winding down what could be their final season in Sacramento. The Anaheim City Council voted unanimously Tuesday on a $75 million financial package that could help lure the team to Orange County. The council also voted in favor of paying for any of the franchise's relocation fees.
Wherever the Kings end up next season, DeMarcus Cousins should be a big part of their future. He's averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds to rank second among rookies in both categories behind Blake Griffin. Cousins has been far better against Utah, averaging 20.3 points and 13.7 boards.
Marcus Thornton also could be key to the club's long-term plans. The second-year shooting guard is averaging 21.8 points since being acquired from New Orleans at the trade deadline.
Thornton had a team-best 22 points in a 109-102 overtime loss at Utah on March 5 in the teams' last matchup.
Jazz forward Al Jefferson, coming off his eighth double-double in 10 games, is averaging a team-best 23.0 points against Sacramento this season.
Including three playoff series, Utah is 30-29 in Sacramento since the Kings relocated from Kansas City in 1985.