Portland Trail Blazers (30-20) vs Utah Jazz (38-13)
The Portland Trail Blazers head to Salt Lake City, hoping to leave Tuesday’s embarrassing loss at Staples Center. If the Blazers are getting anywhere near the league-best Utah Jazz, they’ll need to turn things around and the first item on that checklist is defense. Despite losing to the Phoenix Suns in overtime last night, the Jazz are operating like a well-oiled machine, dispatching most opponents with relative ease. Let’s see if the Blazers can give them some trouble. UPDATE: Jusuf Nurkic is available.
Thursday, April 8 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Norman Powell (probable)
Jazz injuries: Udoka Azubuike (out), Juwan Morgan (out), Jordan Clarkson (doubtful)
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk
What To Watch For
- Defense. Somebody. Please. Yes, we know how important the Blazers’ organization holds defense — just look at its trade deadline move. Don’t worry Norm, we still love you. But you cannot let an opposing team drop 47 points in a quarter and expect to have a chance. While Portland’s starting backcourt isn’t built for defense, something needs to be done to quell the impact of the opposing team, especially when you’re facing the Utah Jazz.
- Make it competitive. The Jazz are a game and half clear of any other team in the league, top 3 on both sides of the ball and destined for a Western Conference Finals berth. And it’s not only Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley Jr. doing all the damage, it’s Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Bojan Bogdanovic. While no one is expecting the Blazers to win this game, they need to be able to push the Jazz to give themselves any chance.
- Robert Covington. We need something positive, don’t we. It’s ironic that when the Blazers were winning games earlier this season, it was RoCo that was causing Portland fans to wonder why Neil Olshey gave up two first round picks last offseason. Over the past four games, Covington has been hitting 13 of 26 (50 percent) from behind the arc, becoming one of the more reliable shooters on the Portland’s squad.
- Slow Jazz. One last point to watch how sprightly the Jazz are on the court tonight, after losing an overtime heartbreaker in Phoenix last night.
What Others Are Saying
While Utah’s Jordan Clarkson appears to be the league’s runaway Sixth Man of the Year, teammate Joe Ingles might be one of his closest competitors, writes Tavan Parker at SLC Dunk.
Joe Ingles biggest obstacles in voters’ minds will likely be that 12.0 points per game. You have to go back to Aaron McKie 2001 to find a 6th Man winner that scored less per game. That being said, Jamal Crawford at 14.2 in 2016 isn’t that far off. And aside from Montrezl Harrell last season, Ingles has a better field goal percentage than every 6th Man winner since 1995! So what if he doesn’t have as much volume as most 6th Man winners, he’s more effective and efficient than most instead.
So if the voters are willing to look past something simple like raw scoring, then I think there will be a new favorite by season’s end. And the once-undrafted, cut by the Clippers signing by the Utah Jazz back in 2015 may take home some much-deserved hardware at the ripe age of 33.
Andy Larsen at The Salt Lake Tribune highlights 24-year-old Donovan Mitchell’s leadership and maturity as he mentors some of his younger teammates.
So perhaps it’s for that reason Mitchell has taken pride in working with the young depths of the Jazz roster, despite not being at the age when it’d be considered normal to take on the role of a mentor. Or maybe it’s for another reason: Mitchell remembers the tips he got as a rookie in the NBA, and wants to pass those on.
“I’m just doing what was what was done with me. Give huge credit to Rodney, you know, Rodney Hood, who did that for me throughout my whole entire rookie season,” Mitchell said, of the Jazz’s former first-round pick. “I’m just trying to continue to show that I’m here for these guys if they need anything as far as advice throughout the game.”
Jazz fans shouldn’t lose hope of a championship, despite losing to the Dallas Mavericks earlier this week, according to Eric Walden at The Salt Lake Tribune.
A lot went wrong Monday in Dallas. Some of it was random, some of it the Jazz will need to fix. But, importantly, they came away feeling as though nothing that happened is something they are incapable of fixing.
“The biggest thing is not to overreact,” Mitchell concluded. “Sometimes [shots] are not going to go in. There’s going to be nights like this.”