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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz Preview

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The Blazers are going for 10 in a row at home; the Jazz go for nine in a row overall.

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Charlotte Hornets v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (31-25) vs. Utah Jazz (27-28)

Sunday, February 11th - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Jazz injuries: Ricky Rubio (questionable)
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

The Blazers are going for 10 wins in a row at home as they face the streaking Utah Jazz. Most recently, the Blazers walked over the Sacramento Kings 118-100, thanks in large part to a heroic 50 points by Damian Lillard.

The Jazz have won eight in a row with six of those victories coming on the road. Among their recent victims are the Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. In their last game, the Jazz downed the Charlotte Hornets 106-94 in Salt Lake City.

Something has to give; either the Jazz snap the Blazers’ home winning streak or the Blazers snap the Jazz’s overall winning streak. With the Blazers trying to make some hay before the schedule toughens and the Jazz starting to believe that the playoffs are possible, this is a key game for both clubs.

What to watch for

  • Can the Blazers chase the Jazz off the 3-point line? Since the Jazz started their unbeaten streak on Jan. 24 they have shot the best percentage in the NBA from behind the arc: a blistering 44.6 percent. During that same period the Blazers have been worst in the league in opponent percentage from three at 40.2 percent. Uh-oh. The good news as far as it goes is that Utah hasn’t taken all that many threes, fifth lowest in the NBA at 25.5 per game over that stretch. Still, the Blazers simply can’t allow the Jazz to get comfortable from deep.
  • Can Lillard take over? After just witnessing Damian Lillard go off for 50 in three quarters against Sacramento there shouldn’t be any doubt that he can explode at any time. Moreover, with Ricky Rubio questionable, Lillard might have another golden opportunity to light up the scoreboard. He is likely to be up against Raul Neto or a hurting Rubio. Either way, you have to like his odds to have a big night.
  • Can the Blazers avoid the bad quarter? The Blazers have had quarters where they scored 20 and 18 against the Charlotte Hornets, 20 against the Detroit Pistons, 19 against the Boston Celtics, and 18 against the Toronto Raptors. Too often this year the Blazers have switched off for long periods of time — sometimes it allowed an opponent back into the game, other times it made a close game into a rather lopsided one. You can’t afford to do that against any team in the NBA, but keeping concentration is especially crucial against a team whose confidence is soaring. The Blazers have every chance of winning this game, but odds are good that they’ll need four strong quarters to do it.

What they’re saying

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Tony Jones examines the pluses and minuses of the Jazz acquiring Jae Crowder at the trade deadline:

The Jazz long have admired Jae Crowder’s toughness, ability to shoot and his grit. He’s also a versatile piece. He’s one of the better wing defenders in the NBA. He can play shooting guard, small forward and power forward, and he can guard all three positions. He fits as a spot-up shooter around Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert. With Crowder, expect Jazz coach Quin Snyder to unlock his small-ball lineups even more.

Donovan Mitchell Jr. has admirably filled the void left by Gordon Hayward when he left last summer and he is drawing praise around the league according to Paul Coro of the LA Times:

Coming out of the draft, analysts had an easy time identifying Mitchell’s talent and persona but a difficult time projecting what it meant. Before the All-Star break, he already is drawing star comparisons to Dwyane Wade (from James) and Damian Lillard.

“He just really seems to remind me of Damian, especially in his early years,” said Phoenix Suns interim head coach Jay Triano, a former Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach. “His ability and it was more the way the ball went through the net. The shot hits and then it’s down fast off that back iron. He’s got that same type of body. He’s got that same type of quickness to attack the basket. He’s got the deep range the same way. His body is always on balance. I just keep thinking every time I see him and watch him in the scout prep, ‘Man, this looks so much like Damian.’”

JWalk67 of SLC Dunk examines the Jazz’s deadline deal and the reaction from players and fans:

Current Jazzman Thabo Sefolosha had a serious old geezer moment when he remembered he played with Jae’s dad, Corey Crowder, back in Europe.

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