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Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Preview

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All the Blazers want for Christmas is a victory as Portland travels to Utah to face the Jazz.

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NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (19-14) at Utah Jazz (16-18)

December 25th, 2018 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Jazz injuries: None
How to watch on TV: ESPN, NBCSNW
How to stream: WatchESPN, YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk

Merry Christmas, Blazer’s Edge readers! Here’s hoping the Trail Blazers can deliver one more gift late Christmas evening with a victory over the Utah Jazz. Portland suffered an embarrassing 120-90 loss to Utah at home last Friday and will look to return the favor in Salt Lake City Tuesday night.

At 16-18, Utah has had a disappointing start to their season. A recent win over Golden State and their dominant victory in the Moda Center show that the Jazz still have the potential to win on any given night.

What to watch for

  • A Holly Jolly Christmas. The Blazers haven’t played on Christmas day since 2010 (a 109-102 road loss to Golden State). Traditionally, Portland has had great success in Christmas games. With a record of 14-3 their Christmas winning percentage (.824) is second only to the Miami Heat (10-2; .833 winning percentage). Utah hasn’t played a Christmas day game since 1997. With only six Christmas games in franchise history, they hold a 4-2 Christmas record. Portland is hoping they can continue their holiday success. It’s the best time of the year!
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Utah has traditionally been tough to beat at home, but this season they haven’t enjoyed much of a home-court advantage. They are only 6-7 at Vivint Smart Home Arena this season. Their schedule has kept them on the road more than any other team this season as well. They’ve played only 13 games at home vs. 21 on the road, meaning Utah will have a home-heavy schedule the second half of the season. They’ll be hoping that can get back to playing well at home to take actually advantage of it.
  • Santa’s Little Helpers. In their blowout of the Blazers on Friday, the Jazz were greatly helped by their bench. Kyle Korver scored 18 and Jae Crowder added 16. Six players scored in double figures for Utah, and none of them were Donovan Mitchell. Utah’s leading scorer was held to only 3 points. Portland will need to a do a better job of defending Utah’s role players—especially from the 3-point line, where Utah shot 16-31 in the Moda Center.

What they’re saying

Mitchell Hanson of Hoops Habit discussed the importance of passing for the Jazz:

In their 16 wins for far in the 2018-19 campaign, the Jazz have averaged 27.4 assists per game, while seeing their shooting percentages skyrocket as well. Utah is shooting 50.1 percent from the field in wins, as well as 38.7 percent from deep on 41.8 field goals per game.

In their 18 losses thus far, the Jazz have averaged 22.9 assists per game, which has also impacted their shooting percentages. They have shot just 42.5 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3, with 36.2 made field goals per game in those losses.

Mychal Lowman of SLC Dunk wrote about how Donovan Mitchell’s shooting has regressed so far in his second year:

The hope is Donovan can snap out of it. Last year, Donovan overachieved during the rough schedule because defenses hadn’t full adapted their game plans to him as they were evaluating whether his November/December brilliance was a flash in the pan. Now they don’t give him the ability to get in a groove. With a schedule built with few bunny hills, Donovan is getting pummeled by the moguls on this black diamond run.

Eric Woodyard of Deseret News wrote that the Jazz are excited to play Utah’s first Christmas game since the Malone-Stockton era:

“Christmas is a special day and the NBA Christmas Day games are for all of us, whether you’re playing or not, it’s part of the holiday,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said after Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City.

“It’s a special day obviously because Christmas is special and you’ve got family in town,” said Jazz forward Jae Crowder. “The world is watching and it’s just some good basketball to be played and a good day to play it on with good energy, good vibes. It’s always fun to play on that day.”