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Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Preview

Portland will try to keep on track against the fifth place Jazz.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (24-28) vs. Utah Jazz (32-18)

February 7, 2020 - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Nassir Little (out), Hassan Whiteside (out)
Jazz injuries: None
How to watch on ptv ac: NBCSNW, ESPN (outside of Portland)
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk

The Trade Deadline passed with no further movement, so besides the departed Skal Labissière, the Portland Trail Blazers look poised to make a run at the playoffs with the players they’ve had since the Ariza trade. Do they have enough talent to get it done? A tough game against the 32-18 Jazz in Utah might be a good indicator.

The Utah Jazz also let the Trade Deadline pass without making move, but they did make a December trade that swapped Dante Exum and two second-round picks for Jordan Clarkson. While the Jazz have an appealing-looking record, Utah has lost five games in a row including two to Denver and the 124-107 loss to the Blazers in Portland last Saturday.

As these two teams faced off less than a week ago, also check out last Saturday’s preview for more about the Jazz.

What to watch for

  • Gary Trent Jr. Gary Trent Jr. was fantastic in the fourth quarter on Thursday against Houston, pouring in 12 points in the quarter and finishing with 18 points on 6-7 shooting. He’s recently looked extremely confident and is adding a missing dimension to the Blazers’ attack.
  • Early energy. The Jazz are in the midst of their worst stretch of play this season. The most efficient way to beat a team that is struggling is to hit them hard right out of the gate. The Blazers are at a disadvantage as they are on the second night of a home-away back-to-back. The Jazz meanwhile had their last game on Wednesday at home. Still, the Blazers were also on a back-to-back and the Jazz weren’t the last time these two teams met, and that one went very well for Portland.
  • Can the Jazz slow the Blazers down? Portland is scoring points in a big way lately. If we pretend the Denver game didn’t happen (what Denver game?), the Blazers have scored over 120 points seven games in a row. They are first in the NBA in scoring over the last eight games, even including the game that shall-not-be-named. If the Blazers are able to score easily against Utah, things will almost certainly look rosy for the guys from the Rose City.

What they’re saying

The Jazz stayed quiet on Deadline Day, but that doesn’t mean their roster is set in stone according to Sarah Todd of Deseret News:

By staying quiet on Thursday, the Jazz are possibly showing the confidence they have in their current team and the improvements that have been made in the offseason and since then. But, in light of the current recent five-game losing streak, the team’s longest since 2016, it would be hard to imagine that they head into the playoffs with their roster looking exactly as it does today.

How is the local press in Salt Lake City feeling about their team right now? Let’s check in with Gordon Monson of the Salt Lake City Tribune:

What they showed on Wednesday night against the Nuggets, in a loss that was about as bad as they come, blowing a number of leads, turning the ball over four times in the final minutes, treating it as though it were a nest of hornets, flying oh-so casual over a span of urgency, blew past bad straight to pathetic.

Taylor Griffin of SLC Dunk calls this “The worst stretch of Jazz basketball in four years”:

All the Jazz can really do is focus on their next game, which *checks schedule* OH GREAT DAMIAN LILLARD AGAIN??? The Jazz will host the Blazers on Friday night with hopes of ending this forsaken losing streak.