Team Records: Portland (17-4) at Utah (4-18)
Game Info: 6 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM.
Vegas Line: Portland -7.5
Refs: Jason Phillips, Michael Smith, Ben Taylor.
The Skinny: After Monta Ellis’s buzzer beater ended the Blazers comeback attempt and avoided overtime, the Blazers head to league-worst Utah as they look for an easy bounce-back win ahead of a key matchup at home vs. the Rockets on Thursday. Utah has now lost three straight, including a 32-point drubbing by the Blazers on Friday night that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers set an NBA record for highest % from 3 for any team shooting 20 or more as they made a franchise-record 17 of their 23 3 point attempts and led by 38 after 3 as they cruised to an easy win. Portland scored the winning basket with 3:02 left in the third in the rout.
Projected Jazz Lineup:
PF-Richard Jefferson (Arizona-13th Season) 9.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 APG.
SF-Jeremy Evans (Western Kentucky-4th Season)-8.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1 APG.
C-Enes Kanter (Kentucky-3rd Season)-12.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, .9 APG
SG-Gordon Hayward (Butler-4th Season)-16.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.9 APG.
PG-Trey Burke (Michigan-Rookie)-12.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.1 APG.
Player to Watch-Gordon Hayward (pictured at right)-I’ll admit I was wrong about Gordon Hayward. I thought he would struggle against tougher competition and not amount to much at this level. While Hayward has struggled at times to be a consistent shooter, such as this year when he is shooting a putrid 39.1% from the floor, he has made strides in many other areas of his game. Hayward’s rebounding has improved as has his passing. His defense is still more than a little questionable but is okay at least. Hayward is never likely to be a star but he will have a solid NBA career and is a key for Utah if they want to be any good any time soon.
Did You Know?: Gordon Hayward is on track to become just the second Jazz player ever to average 16-plus points, 5-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists in a season. The first was hall of famer “Pistol” Pete Marvich.
Song of the Day: “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” from the Book of Mormon musical. A song from this great musical about an imagined Salt Lake City. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
Utah: Out-SF Marvin Williams (Foot), Questionable-C Derrick Favors (Back)
Re-Evaluating Utah: Tanking is Not Fun
The Jazz are doing an expert job at tanking so far this year, getting clobbered in most games and looking like they have no hope of getting at all better any time soon. This might be the right thing for them to do if they win the draft lottery and land a top player next year, but for now it stinks. No team likes losing and routinely getting your ass handed to you is not fun for either the players or the fans. Still, evidence is it can work and here’s hoping Utah rightly is choosing to sacrifice the present for the future.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: Land the knockout punch early. Never let a bad team believe they have a chance to beat you. If Portland plays as they did Friday versus the Jazz, or even close to how they did, they should win easily.
Utah wins if: They play from ahead. Utah can’t afford to go down 17 points after one quarter as they did Friday in Portland. If they want to have a shot in this game they need to try and play with the lead for as long as possible.