Portland Trail Blazers (10-10) vs. Utah Jazz (13-7)
The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz on the road in their third and final game of a road trip. The Blazers come into this matchup after losing two straight on the road, dropping their record on the road to an abysmal 1-9. The Jazz are coming off of a two game series against the New Orleans Pelicans, splitting games on back-to-back nights and hoping to win a second straight in their third game of a four game home stand.
What To Watch For
- Game on the road. It can not be overstated just how bad the Blazers have been on the road this season. Currently the only teams that haven’t made it to two wins on the road are the Blazers and the Rockets, who are 0-11. Beating the Golden State Warriors on the road always seemed like a pipe dream, but losing to the lowly Kings in the teams’ second game under Alvin Gentry is bad. The Jazz are much closer to the Warriors than to the Kings in team quality, which doesn’t bode well for the Blazers. The Jazz aren’t exactly who teams trying to figure out a way to win want to be playing, especially not on the road in the mountain time zone.
- Rudy Gobert. The French big man is a force to be reckoned with defensively in the paint. However, the Jazz have been exposed in the past by being forced to play five out defense against small ball lineups. This could be good for the Blazers, who have increasingly featured Larry Nance Jr. as a small ball big man off the bench. If the Blazers can force Gobert to play perimeter defense, they may find a winning formula somewhere in Utah.
- Nassir Little. Assuming he starts in place of an injured Norman Powell, Little should have an immense impact on this game. Little hasn’t started much in his career, just nine times in 116 total games, but when he has, he has been exactly what the Blazers need. Averaging 9.6 points per game in starts is a significant jump from his 4.4 career average off the bench. The defense Little provides is also a welcome benefit and will be important against the Jazz’s second leading scorer Bojan Bogdanovic.
What Others Are Saying
James Hansen of SLC Dunk talked about the impact the Jazz’s forwards had in their win against the Pelicans.
Joe Ingles, who got the start in place of Royce O’Neale who was out with an ankle sprain, also had a nice night. Ingles was a near no show the night before but tonight impacted the game in a big way. Ingles was 4/5 from three and finished with 15 points. It’s been a rough year for Ingles so far so to see him hit open shots was big.
Rudy Gay had another big showing for the Jazz. He was probably the only one that could show a good game in last night against the Pelicans. Gay has been a dominating presence from as the Jazz’s backup power forward since he first stepped on the floor. Tonight he took advantage of the improved ball movement from the Jazz and was perfect from three going 4/4.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden discussed the Jazz’s seeming lack of killer instinct when facing teams that they should beat.
Despite holding the league’s top-rated offense, players have consistently noted that it nevertheless doesn’t feel right. They’ve increasingly encountered opponents eschewing drop-big defenses in favor of 1-through-5 switching, and the Jazz have increasingly resorted to ball-stopping isolation to counter it. They’ve been guilty of waning focus and inconsistency of effort, allowing foes to either rally back from deficits or to linger far longer than they should and stay within striking distance.
The nadir came in Friday’s home loss to the young and short-handed and frankly not very good Pelicans — a game defined by low energy, lack of urgency, and an alarming amount of “me first” play. It was their second one-point loss to an inferior foe in a span of five days, following Monday’s defeat vs. Memphis.