Team Records: Portland (36-17) at Utah (19-34)
Game Info: 6 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM.
Vegas Line: Portland -5.5
Refs: Tony Brothers, Mark Ayotte, Brent Barnaky
The Skinny: The Blazers play their first game since before the all-star break as they face the division rival and lowly Utah Jazz. Since the two teams last met, Portland is 5-1 and Utah is 2-3. Both teams will be shorthanded Friday as the result of trades that went down on Thursday.
Last Time They Met: It wasn’t pretty but the Blazers got the job done, taking out Utah 103-102. LMA led Portland with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the win.
Projected Jazz Lineup:
PF-Trevor Booker (Clemson-5th Season)-7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, .9 APG.
SF-Gordon Hayward (Butler-5th Season)-19.7 PPG, 5 RPG, 4.3 APG.
C-Derek Favors (Georgia Tech-5th Season)-15.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG-Elijah Milsap (UAB-Rookie)-5.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 APG.
PG-Dante Exum (Australia-Rookie)-4.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.3 APG.
Player to Watch-Dante Exum (pictured at right)-It hasn’t been an easy transition to the NBA for the young Australian PG. Shooting up draft boards last spring, it seemed like Exum was always going to be something of a long-term play. Yet, his physical gifts are obvious, Exum is quick, he has PG vision and SG size and plays under control most of the time, only turning on the jets when he needs to. The biggest flaws in Exum’s game are that he appeared to be almost shellshocked by actually playing against opponents that he wasn’t more talented than. He has struggled to find his way among the cadre of really talented NBA PGs and is particularly prone to turnovers. Still, the Jazz have to hope that the flashes they see from him are proof that the future for him is bright, certainly far brighter than his 6.43 PER (which is worse than Nolan Smith’s rookie year PER of 7.82 btw) would suggest.
Did You Know?: The Blazers have won five straight against the Jazz, one short of the all-time record of six straight, set from 1988-89.
Song of the Day: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles-In honor of Kersey, this was the #1 song the week he was born. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Shoulder), SF Alonzo Gee (Trade), SG Arron Afflalo (Trade)
Utah: Out-SG Alec Burks (Shoulder), PF Grant Jerrett (Trade), Questionable-SG Rodney Hood (Foot), SG Joe Ingles (Back)
Re-Evaluating Utah: What The Heck Are They Doing?
Look Utah was not particularly close to being a playoff team, let alone a contender but the trade they made to get rid of Kanter was puzzling to say the least. Kanter was no great player, but he was an above average one and it was not entirely certain that he was going to leave. Even if he were, Utah could have done better than Perkins, whom they’ll buy out, Jerett, a marginal player at best, a few picks and the rights to a European player. It’s not nothing, but it makes you wonder if Utah has a plan. Of course, if they keep drafting as they have the last few years, any plan they have won’t work out too well as their picks have been okay at best.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They keep their focus. This is a bad Utah team and Portland can’t let the Jazz believe they have a shot. If the Blazers are focused, they should roll.
Utah wins if: Hayward goes nuclear. Hayward is capable of putting up 30+ points at times. He’ll need to do so for Utah to have a legitimate shot at winning.