Game Time: 7:30 p.m. TV: Comcast and ESPN
Since this is the third game against the Jazz in the last month it's doubtful you need much of a rundown of who they are. It's completely unlikely you will have forgotten the rump-kicking they administered to the Blazers last time they came to town. Don't fret too much. The Blazers have contributed only 2 wins to the ridiculous 16-2 record the Jazz have posted since mid-January. This team has gotten used to winning and will try to nab the hat trick against Portland tonight.
In the final analysis this game won't be about technicalities anyway. This game is all about heart...at least if the Blazers are to win it. Will Portland be outgunned again? Judging by the looks of Brandon Roy in the last game they certainly will. But you know what? You're at home. You're trying to become a playoff team. You're claiming to have one of the deepest, most talented young rosters in the league even with at least 2.5 important guys gone from that roster. If you let the outcome of this game rest solely on technical perfection, Utah's execution, or relative health you might as well pack in those playoff hopes because everybody else from here on--a group whose collective pity wouldn't fill a small thimble--is going to pack you in a box and mail you home to mama. You want that playoff spot? You charge right at it tonight. Every time the Jazz hit a jumper you drive it down their throat the next possession. Every time they make one of those pretty interior cuts you throw an elbow into their chest so they can't breathe straight. Every time they leave you the slightest bit open you drill a shot so straight and true that it's like a flying dagger between their eyes. Then you laugh in their face and ask how much more they want. These guys have beaten you twice now. The home loss was one of the most humiliating in recent memory. I was at that game and saw the Blazers come out to warm up. They had the air I used to see when lesser high school teams used to run up against my state-championship-esque alma mater. Those sophomores at Madison High knew they didn't have a chance against the juniors and seniors that Grant was (then) playing...names like Tony Ross, Mark West, Terrell Brandon. You could see it in their eyes and every step of their warm-ups. That's how the Blazers looked in that home game a month ago. If you've got a heart, a soul, passion for this game, any guts at all and you're a Trail Blazer you come out with fire in your eyes. You see it in warm-ups, in the opening possession, every time a loose ball goes on the floor, every time the Jazz want to run, every time a quarter gets down to a critical possession. You end... that... win... streak... tonight. You owe this team a thumping. Portland needs to come out with paddles in hand and not let up until that final horn sounds and the Jazz scurry off to the plane glad to be leaving town.
If the Blazers don't play with energy and passion tonight it's time to start worrying, not only in emotional terms but in practical. They've got a long road trip next. Some of those games are winnable but any game can be lost on the road. They're going to need that emotion, toughness, and momentum to carry them through the trip and they shouldn't wait until they're in the air to summon it. Absorbing the Boston loss is no problem if you win this game but should you lose it, making two in a row at home, that's a bad sign.
So there you have it. The key questions of the evening: Is this our building or not? Do we have heart or not? Is that playoff run a serious commitment or not? You'll need every bit of affirmative answer you can muster to beat this team, but it can happen and it needs to happen. Tonight.
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