Portland Trail Blazers (14-17) at Utah Jazz (18-12)
December 26, 2019 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Jazz injuries: Mike Conley (out)
How to watch on TV: TNT
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk
The Portland Trail Blazers travel to Salt Lake City to face the Utah Jazz following a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans 102-94. Carmelo Anthony had 23 points along with nine rebounds, while Hassan Whiteside had another double-double with 16 rebounds and 11 points. The Blazers struggled from beyond the arc, managing only 13.8 percent from the three-point line.
The Utah Jazz welcome the Blazers after a loss to the Miami Heat 107-104. Joe Ingles led the Jazz with 27 points, a season high. Alongside five blocks, big man Rudy Gobert contributed 18 points and 20 rebounds for a double-double, while Bojan Bogdanovic had 19 points.
What to watch for
- Getting hot. After a cold night of shooting by Damian Lillard, it stands to reason that he will regress towards the mean, which signifies one thing: he will torch the Jazz from range. Lillard always has a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing performance, and it is reasonable to expect that he will wear that chip proudly against Utah.
- Energy. The Jazz are fresh off of a three-game road trip to the East Coast, while the Blazers arrive in Utah following a four-game homestand. Whichever team comes out with the most energy — and a lack of a Christmas hangover — will likely be successful.
- Battle of the big men. Watching Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert go up against Hassan Whiteside will certainly be entertaining, but who controls the paint will be crucial. Whoever can dominate inside, gobble up boards, and block the most shots will come out on top.
What they’re saying
Mike Conley of the Jazz has struggled with a hamstring injury, and over at SLC Dunk, Taylor Griffin gets into how Utah’s role players need to step up.
Conley missed a handful of the past few games due to the same hamstring injury, but the Jazz stayed afloat due to some favorable games as of late, as well as some tremendous play from their main guys. Donovan Mitchell has been playing like an All-Star. Bojan Bogdanovic has exceeded expectations and is playing like a borderline All-Star himself. Rudy Gobert is, well, Rudy Gobert, dominating the game the way only Rudy can. At this point of the season and their respective careers, you know what you’re going to get out of those three. They are doing their thing. But in order to hit their stride as a team and really start playing consistent winning basketball, the Jazz are going to need more from their role players.
Sarah Todd of the Deseret News spent far too much time analyzing Jazz games so we didn’t have to, providing several nuggets of analysis, including Rudy Gobert’s strengths.
The reasoning behind the Jazz being lauded for their defensive prowess and Rudy Gobert winning two Defensive Player of the Year awards is abundantly clear to me, now more than ever. There is something to be said for the elevated level of attention to detail on the defensive end that is so present with an elite defensive team. That’s not to say that they have been perfect, just that the defensive principles in place are impressive.
Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake City Tribune explains where Utah’s bench stands now after recent roster moves.
The Jazz’s bench is extremely inexperienced: their 11th man on the roster is now Tony Bradley, who has played 231 minutes. The six players behind him, all rookies, have played a combined 48 minutes in their careers. If there are any further injuries, those rookies would have to step up. Among those rookies, Tucker and 6-foot-7 big Juwan Morgan have had the best G-League seasons so far. Jarrell Brantley is still learning the nuances of the game and how to stay tactically disciplined, Justin Wright-Foreman is a talented scorer but a developing passer and defender, Miye Oni is struggling with his outside shot right now (making just 16% from deep), and Nigel Williams-Goss is a floor manager at even the G-League level.