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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz Preview

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The Blazers look for four in a row as they face the 12th place Jazz.

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Utah Jazz v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (18-13) vs. Utah Jazz (15-17)

December 21st, 2018 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Jazz injuries: None
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk

After losing 8 of 11, the The Portland Trail Blazers have now rung up three wins in a row. Not coincidentally, the Blazers bench has made a very welcome reappearance over recent games, giving hope that the poor play at the end of November and early December is now just a bad memory.

The Utah Jazz find themselves in 12th place in the West, a great disappointment to fans and pundits alike. The Jazz have had the most difficult schedule in the NBA by some measures, and have brought back Kyle Korver to help the struggling offense. For these reasons and others, there is a good deal of optimism that Utah will be able to reproduce the late-season surge of last year and once again make the playoffs. Their victory Wednesday over the Golden State Warriors by a score of 108-103 was a good step.

What to watch for

  • The Jazz have been struggling on offense. Utah has an offensive rating of 101.2 over the last six games, 27th in the NBA. By contrast, the Blazers have an offensive rating of 112.7 for the same period of time, good for sixth in the league. A good defensive performance by the Blazers will make things very difficult for the visitors.
  • On the other hand, the Jazz have been defending very well. While the Jazz have struggled on the offensive end of the court, they are getting it done at the defensive end. Utah’s defensive rating over the last six games is 101.1, third best in the NBA. Over the same period of time the Blazers have a defensive rating of 111.7, putting them at 21st.
  • Portland needs another strong bench performance. Over the last three games the Blazers have been a top-8 team in bench scoring. Over the whole season they are in the bottom nine. Utah’s bench has been in the middle of the pack. If Portland can win the battle of the benches, expect a victory for the home team.

What they’re saying

Dan Devine of the Ringer looks at what the future might hold after an indifferent start to the season:

Thirty-two games in, the Jazz remain one of the toughest teams in the league to draw a bead on. They’re 15-17, tied for 12th place in the 15-team West; that also puts them just three games out of sixth in what remains a rush-hour-traffic-jam of a conference. By NBA.com’s reckoning, Utah’s fielded the league’s seventh-worst offense and eighth-best defense, resulting in a net rating just a tick below zero for the season. So: average. And thus disappointing, given what we expected after a 29-6 close to last season, a playoff series win over Oklahoma City, and a breakout postseason performance by Mitchell, who finished second in Rookie of the Year balloting.

Taylor Griffin of SLC dunk sings the praises of Rudy Gobert:

After another monster performance last night in Salt Lake City, Rudy Gobert muscled the Jazz to a huge home win against the defending champion of the world, Golden State Warriors. Gobert finished with 17 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks on a night where he was absolutely the difference maker in the game.

This wasn’t the first time this season that Rudy Gobert took over a game. Even though you may not even realize his impact on games, Gobert has not only been the Jazz’s best player this season, he’s one of the best players in the NBA.

Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Damian Lillard is a focal point for the Jazz:

Lillard, specifically, has proven particularly problematic for the Jazz.

In the teams’ four meetings last season, the Weber State product averaged 33.0 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field. And while his 3-point shooting was down slightly against Utah (34.3 percent), he made up for it by making frequent — and efficient — trips to the foul line, averaging 8.0 attempts per game, and converting every single one. In 23 career games vs. the Jazz, he’s averaged 26.7 ppg, 5.8 apg, and 4.4 rpg, while shooting 46.4 percent from the field and 39.9 percent from deep.