Portland Trail Blazers (27-54) vs Utah Jazz (48-33)
We’ve made it! Game 82. The Portland Trail Blazers are locked into their draft odds so there are no mixed emotions any more. It’s one final chance for the players to show what they are about, and for many of them the last chance to add to their resume before likely joining new teams in the off-season. For fans, it’s the first time in months to watch a game without thinking of the repercussions of winning or losing.
The good news for the Utah Jazz is that they are entering the playoffs quite healthy and with a strong roster on paper. The bad news for them is that there are plenty of questions about whether this team can play to its potential when it counts. One of the chief concerns is their propensity for blowing big leads. Friday night was a prime example as they managed to blow a seventeen point fourth quarter lead and lose to the Phoenix Suns by a score of 115-111.
UPDATE: Drew Eubanks has been downgraded to out with a wrist sprain.
Sunday, April 10- 6:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Nassir Little (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Eric Bledsoe (out), Joe Ingles (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Justise Winslow (out), Josh Hart (out), Trendon Watford (out), Drew Eubanks (out), Greg Brown III (probable), Keljin Blevins (questionable), Kris Dunn (questionable), CJ Elleby (questionable)
Jazz injuries: Trent Forrest (out), Udoka Azubuike (out)
SBN Affiliate: SLC Dunk
What To Watch For
- Scoreboard watching? While the Blazers are locked into their lottery odds, the Jazz do not yet know their playoff opponent. They do know it will be either the Dallas Mavericks or the Golden State Warriors. Which one they play depends on the result of this game, whether the Denver Nuggets win their last game and whether the Golden State Warriors win their final game. With all of the games starting at the same time, the Jazz may be a bit distracted. If they have a strong desire to play one opponent or the other, it could get a bit crazy.
- Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. We here at Blazer’s Edge don’t have any secret inside information on the relationship between Gobert and Mitchell, but from where we sit their relationship seems a bit... strained shall we say? If you are looking for a detail to keep your eye on, see how many times Mitchell looks for Gobert down low. It could be entertaining.
- A chance to say your final goodbyes. It’s hard to predict what offseason moves the Blazers will make, but it isn’t really going too far out on a limb to say that the majority of players hitting the hardwood for the home team won’t be putting on a Blazers uniform next season. While things certainly hasn’t gone the way fans wanted, it has certainly been memorable. The best of luck to all the players who wind up in new homes next season.
What Others Are Saying
How it going for the Jazz lately? Not great, writes Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated.
Utah, which held the NBA’s best record last season only to be bounced in the second round by a Clippers club that lost Kawhi Leonard mid-series, appears to be coming apart at the seams lately. The Jazz have dropped six of their last seven, with the lone win coming against the Lakers, who alone are arguably the league’s biggest disappointment in recent years.
Sven Karabegovic of SLC Dunk explores whether the Jazz can make some noise in the playoffs. Note that this was written before Utah blew a 17 point fourth quarter lead to the Suns on Friday.
Does one win against a depleted Grizzles team outweigh the 15 games in which the Jazz lost after leading by 10 or more? No, probably not. I still think it’s unlikely this team makes it past the second round. Still, this does show that the Jazz are making progress. Just a week ago, I wouldn’t have expected Utah to pull out of that game with a victory. The fan in me feels cautiously optimistic that this team could hold it together for long enough to make some noise in the playoffs. After all, Danuel House has played like the 3 and D player they’ve so desperately needed and Juancho Hernangomez has been a pleasant surprise (for more on that, read Calvin’s article, here). And given the incredible offensive fire power on this roster (number one offensive rating in the league at 116.4, per NBA.com), the Jazz should have the guns to go toe-to-toe with any team in the west.
Carlos Boozer talks about the Jazz past and present, but the highlight is a story you just have to read about Prince as reported by Eric Walden of the Salt Lake City Tribune.
The story has been out for years about the time the late pop superstar took over the hoopster’s pad out in California and lent his own eccentric vibe to the place. But hearing Boozer re-tell it and sprinkle in some hilarious details was the highlight of the evening: