Team Records: Portland (23-22) at Utah (24-21)
Game Info: 6 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Utah -5.5
Refs: Ed Malloy, John Goble, Scott Twardoski
The Skinny: Fresh off the Aldridge miracle win over the Mavs on Tuesday, the Blazers begin a crucial back to back home and home against the only team they haven’t faced this NBA season, the Utah Jazz. Utah rebounded with a solid win over the Hornets a few days ago after suffering a team-worst 45-point home loss to Houston on Monday. The Jazz and Blazers will meet again in Portland Saturday night.
Last Season: The Jazz swept the Blazers 4-0. Utah has won the last four and eight of the last nine, season series versus Portland.
Projected Jazz Lineup:
PF-Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech-7th Season) 14.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.5 APG.
SF-Marvin Williams (North Carolina-8th Season)-8.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1 APG.
C-Al Jefferson (Prentiss (HS)-9th Season)-17.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2 APG
SG-Randy Foye (Villanova-7th Season)-11.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2 APG.
PG-Jamaal Tinsley (Iowa State-10th Season)-4.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 5.1 APG.
Player to Watch-Al Jefferson (pictured at right)-It was a long time to go between playoff appearances for Jefferson, making the playoffs as a rookie with Boston to making the playoffs with Utah last season. In between Jefferson got a reputation as a player who put up stats but didn’t necessarily help your team win. Jefferson is devastatingly effective on the left block, but only the left block, and is having a good year on offense. He rarely turns the ball over and is a good rebounder for his position. On defense, he is questionable at best but if part of an otherwise strong defensive lineup, he can be hidden pretty well. Jefferson is a key reason Utah is back in the playoff hunt this season.
Did You Know?: The Utah Jazz have only missed the playoffs four times since the 1983-84 season and have only had a losing record once during that span.
Song of the Day: “Time of Your Life” by Green Day-This season has certainly been one hell of a ride for the Blazers so I thought I’d break out one of my favorite songs. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), PF Joel Freeland (Gastroenteritis).
Utah: Out-PG Mo Williams (Thumb), Doubtful-SG Gordon Hayward (Shoulder).
Much like Portland, one might question how they have a winning record with a losing point differential, especially since they have had difficulty closing out games well. The answer lies in their balance. The Jazz don’t have a true star, Millsap is their best player and he wasn’t at all close to making the all star game this year. Instead, they have a collection of players who are cobbled together into a mix that somehow works. They do an especially good job converting second chance opportunities. It’s a good thing they have a decent offense because their defense is not so good, ranking 24th in defensive efficiency. Still, the Jazz are more than the sum of their parts, are always difficult to beat at home and will be a tough task for Portland to overcome.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make Utah rely on isos on offense. The key to Utah’s offense, especially Millsap’s, is passing. If Portland can force Utah to beat them 1 on 1, they will probably be able to walk out with a win.
Utah wins if: They do well from deep. Utah has a bench full of good 3 point shooters. If they can take and make a good number of 3 pointers, they should be able to get the win.