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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz Preview: Nurkic Questionable

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Portland take on the red-hot Jazz who come to Portland looking for revenge.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (31-20) vs. Utah Jazz (29-22)

January 30th, 2019 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Nik Stauskas (out)
Jazz injuries: Thabo Sefolosha (out), Raul Neto (out), Dante Exum (out), Tony Bradley (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: WatchESPN, YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk

Update: Jusuf Nurkic is now listed as questionable for tonight’s game with “right knee soreness.”

The Portland Trail Blazers are on a nice run, going 11-4 over their last 15 games, and haven’t lost at home since January 4. Most recently, the Blazers defeated the Atlanta Hawks by a score of 120-111, a game Portland played without Damian Lillard.

The Utah Jazz are even hotter, going 9-1 over their last ten games. The only loss? A 109-104 defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers. Donovan Mitchell has emerged as a superstar lately, regularly leading all scorers and filling the stat sheet in other areas too.

The Jazz will look to avenge that home-court loss to Portland and deliver a statement to the Blazers at the Moda Center. With a victory, the Jazz will claim the season series. The best the Blazers can do is tie it up. This one has the makings of a memorable game.

What to watch for

  • Donovan Mitchell. The last time Mitchell scored less than 24 points? January 4 when he “only” managed 18 points. That’s 12 games in row — and counting — of 24 points or more. The good news for the Blazers is that a good game for Mitchell doesn’t necessarily mean a Jazz victory. Last time these two teams played, Mitchell scored 36, yet the Blazers walked away victorious.
  • The Blazers need to shoot well. Utah is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, giving up only 105.1 points per game. That’s good for third best in the league. In the last meeting, the Blazers did shoot well, going 50% from the field and 44.4% from deep. That’s significantly above their season averages of 46.2% and 35.9%, respectively. Another above-average shooting performance might be necessary against Utah if the Blazers are to come away victorious.
  • The Blazers need to keep turnovers to a minimum. One of the keys to the Blazers’ previous victory over the Jazz was that they didn’t squander possession of the basketball. Eight turnovers for the Blazers compared to 15 for the Jazz was significant. The Blazers have had some very low turnover games recently, especially the four turnover effort against Cleveland. However, 18 turnovers against Atlanta and 19 against Oklahoma City is too many. Whichever team wins the turnover battle might well win the game.

What they’re saying

Donovan Mitchell is playing fantastic basketball right now. Tavan Parker at SLC Dunk looks at one of the ways that Mitchell has dramatically improved:

If it weren’t for James Harden scoring a bazillion points every night, Donovan Mitchell would be getting a ton of press for how ridiculous he is playing. His reads have improved, as seen by the fast ball pass the other night. His shot is back, hitting over 40% of his threes. But I’m going to focus on what might be the most important progression.

Free throws.

With the trade deadline approaching, the Jazz are looking for a reinforcement or two. Mitchell Hansen on hoopshabit.com looks at one of the possibilities that is getting a lot of buzz around Salt Lake City:

Porter could be an interesting piece for Utah to target and an intriguing player to add to the mix in Salt Lake City for the remainder of the season and beyond.

With the deadline inching closer and the rumors surrounding Otto Porter Jr., the Jazz and the rest of the NBA, let’s take a look at some pros and cons of Porter being traded to Utah.

Some heroes wear hairy costumes. When a live bat decided to take in warm-ups before the Jazz-Timberwolves game, it was Jazz Bear to the rescue as reported by the Associated Press:

The few thousand fans in the building took turns cheering and then groaning while watching the flying mammal zip around the arena and elude several security guards and an on-court employee armed with a net.

Jazz Bear took a break from entertaining the crowd by taking a few swings himself before finally capturing it — with nothing but net.