Team Records: Utah (32-30) at Portland (28-34)
Game Info: 7 PM-TV on KGW, Radio on 750 AM the Game.
Vegas Line: Utah -4.
Refs: Joe Crawford, Marat Kogut, Rodney Mott.
The Skinny: Following their official elimination from the playoff race Monday, the Blazers return home for one last time this year to face a Utah game currently 1 game out of the final west playoff spot. The Jazz are coming off a thrilling 3 OT win over the Mavericks Monday and this game, the first of two matchups between the two in the season’s final 8 days, is crucial for Utah.
Last Time They Met: Wesley Matthews had a monster game and Portland appeared ready to pull the slight upset over the Jazz when Felton’s tendency to commit turnovers at the worst possible time struck again. Felton turned the ball over on three straight key possessions late as the Jazz stole one in Portland.
Projected Jazz Lineup:
PF-Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech-6th Season) 16.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.3 APG.
SF-Demarre Carroll (Missouri-3rd Season)-4.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, .7 APG.
C-Al Jefferson (Prentiss (HS)-8th Season)-19.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.2 APG
SG-Gordon Hayward (Butler-2nd Season)-11.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.2 APG.
PG-Devin Harris (Wisconsin-8th Season)-11 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 5.1 APG.
Player to Watch-Devin Harris (pictured at right)-It seems like people have been overlooked Harris almost since the day he first entered the NBA. After being drafted by Washington, he was traded by the Wizards to Dallas for Antawn Jamison. He never really found his form in Dallas and was shipped off to New Jersey for Jason Kidd a few years later. It was there that he honed his skills as a lightning fast guard who gets to the basket at will and draws a lot of fouls. He was just coming into his own when he was traded to Utah as part of the Deron Williams trade last year. Harris has been erratic at best since making the move west, too often settling for outside shots he cannot make with any consistency and failing to give a lot of effort on defense. Thankfully he appears to have, for this year at least, avoid the injuries that plagued him the last couple years, so he’s on the court but if he’s not really into the game he’s basically a shooting guard and not a real distributor because he tends to dominate the ball. Add to that questionable at best outside shooting and it is easy to see why Harris and Utah have been erratic this season.
Did You Know?: Earlier this year, Jeremy Evans became the first member of the Utah Jazz to win the slam dunk contest.
Song of the Day: “Turn it off” from the Book of Mormon Soundtrack-Look I know I went with something else from this for the last Utah game but this is just too good. We all need to “turn off” our feelings about this season and look to forget it as soon as possible. Maybe this “little Mormon trick” will help. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliott Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Hip), Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Quad).
Utah: Out-SF Josh Howard, PG Earl Watson, SG Raja Bell (Knee), SG CJ Miles (Gastroc Muscle Strain).
Re-Evaluating Utah: Home is Where the Wins Are
Earlier this season when the Blazers were actually playing well there was a huge split between home and road performance both statistically and results wise. That difference is even more pronounced for the Jazz, who are 22-8 at home and 10-22 on the road. While the Jazz do score 5 points less per game on the road than at home for them the main difference is their defense. They allow almost 8 points more per game on the road than at home. Whether it is the youth of the team, the power of the crowd pushing them to perform or something else, they are a different, and far, better, team at home.
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 abel 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 way they desperately need in Portland.