Team Records: Portland (28-37) at Utah (35-30)
Game Info: 5 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 AM the Game.
Vegas Line: Utah -6
Refs: Greg Willard, Mark Ayotte, Violet Palmer.
The Skinny: Blazer fans have been looking forward to this day for a long time, a day in which we can finally bid this team that started so well than crashed and burned so badly goodbye for good. The Blazers close out the season in Utah against a Jazz team that will be the #8 seed in the west playoffs after beating Phoenix Monday.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers laid an egg on fan appreciation night, falling handily to Utah and losing by 21 in a game that wasn’t that close.
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-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 seven years ago to making the playoffs with Utah now. 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 has had his best offensive season of his career this year. 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 clearly a key reason Utah has made the playoffs this year.
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-To conclude this season we have to go with one of my favorite songs of all time. I hope next season we indeed have the time of our lives and can put this year behind us quickly. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliott Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Hip), Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Quad), C-Joel Przybilla (Bronchitis), SG Jamal Crawford (Ankle).
Utah: Out-PG Earl Watson (Knee), SG CJ Miles (Gastroc Muscle Strain).
Re-Evaluating Utah: A Playoff Surprise
The Jazz were not supposed to be this good this quickly They were a young team with a new coach, a point guard who didn’t want to be there and a player in Al Jefferson known more for putting up big stats than winning games. Yet they made it all work this year because of a combination of strong defense, a big step up from several players, most notably Gordon Hayward and even a little bit of luck. Its doubtful they’ll make much noise in the postseason and, in fact making the playoffs cost them their draft pick. Still it is hard not to be excited for this new generation of Utah players as they make the first of what should be many playoff runs.
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.