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Blazers Look to Damage Playoff Hopes of Divison Rival Jazz - Pinwheel Empire
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Blazers Look to Damage Playoff Hopes of Divison Rival Jazz

submitted 6 years ago by in Game Preview

Team Records: Utah (27-26) at Portland (25-28)

Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, radio on 750 AM the Game

Vegas Line: Portland -3.5

Refs: TBA

 

The Skinny: Fresh off one of their more comprehensive wins of the year Sunday vs. the Wolves, the Blazers look to win back to back games for the first time in over two months vs. a suddenly struggling Utah team. After going on a tear for much of March, a 4-OT loss in Atlanta has led to a stretch where the Jazz have dropped 4 of 5, including three straight.  If they want to maintain hopes of a playoff berth, they need a win tonight.

 

Last Time They Met: In a back and forth affair, Utah got the last laugh as they survived due to Batum going down with a knee injury when he appeared to have a clear path on a shot that would have sent the game to OT.  Millsap led the way for Utah with 19 points and 15 boards.

 

Projected Jazz Lineup:

 PF: Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech, 6th season) – 16.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.3 APG

SF: Gordon Hayward (Butler, 2nd season) – 10.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 3.1 APG

C: Al Jefferson (Prentiss (HS),  8th season) – 19.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.2 APG

SG: CJ Miles (Skyline (HS), 7th season) – 9.1 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.2 APG

PG: Devin Harris (Wisconsin, 8th season) – 10.1 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 4.9 APGGordon Hayward

 

Player to Watch: Gordon Hayward (pictured at right) – I’ve probably seen that shot Hayward put up at the end of the 2010 national title game 100 times since that night and every time it strikes me how close he came to pulling off perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history.  On the same night we crown a new NCAA champion, it is appropriate to evaluate a player who for 3 weeks two years ago became a star and was this close to becoming a legend.  Hayward is an athletic wing who is still trying to figure himself out a bit but has seen notable improvement in nearly all areas of his game this season.  He has strong jumping and finishing abilities and has range, even if it is inconsistent.  His defense is improving and although he’ll never be an elite defender, he is no longer one of the worst in the league.  More than anything else this year, however, what Hayward has done this year is play within himself.  He doesn’t try to do too much and no longer seems frozen by the bright lights of the NBA.  He’ll never be the star he was at Butler but he looks to have a solid career ahead of him.

 

Did You Know?: The Jazz played in and lost the first 4 OT game in the NBA since the Blazers lost to Phoenix in 1997.

 

Song of the Day: “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” from the Musical “Book of Mormon”-A song from the hilarious musical “Book of Mormon”, this song talks about the mythical Salt Lake City in the eyes of a young Ugandan girl.  Enjoy:

 

Injury Updates:

Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot), Questionable-C Joel Przybilla (knee).

Utah: Out- SG Raja Bell, SF Josh Howard (Knee).

 

Re-Evaluating Utah: Why the Struggles?

It wasn’t too long ago that the Jazz were flying high, they won six in a row last month, including back to back impressive wins over the Lakers and OKC.  Suddenly in the last week they have hit the skids. Why?  The answer might well lie in the bench.  With Hayward and Miles starting, the Jazz don’t have a lot of scoring punch left on their bench.  They are forced to rely on talented if raw players such as Burks and Kanter, who are inconsistent at best, not surprising given that both are rookies.  Still, if the Jazz are to make a playoff push, they need to find that rhythm in the second unit or they will be condemned to a second straight year out of the postseason, something they have not seen for nearly 30 years.

 

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 one-on-one, 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 three-point shooters. If they can take and make a good number of three-pointers, they should be able to win Monday.

2 comments

skywaker9 (David) is a Portland native and passionate Blazers fan. He currently works as a University fiscal analyst for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. He also has a PhD in Public Affairs and Policy at Portland State University. David is a former political activist who chose to focus on sports because they made him happy. He primarily writes previews for PWE and one of his primary goals is to inform Blazer fans everywhere about those players on other teams they may not have heard of but should (such as Nikola Vucevic).