Portland Trail Blazers (31-40) vs Utah Jazz (35-36)
The Portland Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City in a single-game road trip on Wednesday night.
The Blazers have quickly dropped out of the pack of teams competing for the final playoffs and play-in spots in the NBA’s Western Conference. The Blazers now sit three games behind the New Orleans Pelicans for 12th place, and four games out of the ten seed in the West following their current six-game losing streak.
The Jazz are clinging to the final play-in spot in the West, sitting just a half game above the Los Angeles Lakers, but tied with both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Oklahoma City Thunder. A win tonight over the Blazers would leave them just a half game out of a guaranteed playoff spot.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz - Wednesday, March 21 - 6:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Justise Winslow (out), Ibou Badji (out), Jerami Grant (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Nassir Little (out)
Jazz injuries: Collin Sexton (out), Jordan Clarkson (out), Lauri Markkanen (questionable)
More Info on Utah: SLC Dunk
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What To Watch For
Damian Lillard Watch. As the season winds down, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Blazers will find themselves outside of the postseason for the second straight year. Although the Blazers were in the thick of the race for most of the year, their six straight losses have made it nearly impossible to make up the difference this late in the race. Damian Lillard is showing no signs of slowing down, though. He sits third in the league in scoring and is making a case for First Team All-NBA. His individual performances on a nightly basis are reason enough to still be invested in every game down the stretch. Oh yeah, and he scored 60 the last time the Blazers and Jazz met.
High-scoring Affair. Both the Blazers and Jazz have a top ten offensive efficiency paired with a bottom ten defensive efficiency. They are both near the league lead in three-point makes per game. This formula all adds up to a game primed to be a shootout from deep. The winner might just end up being whoever can hit more threes...or force the other to miss the majority of theirs. With high-powered scorers on all sides, including All Stars Lillard and Markkanen, the defense of both teams will be tested.
The Battle in the Middle. The Jazz are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, sitting 6th in the league. The Blazers rank 26th. How well will Jusuf Nurkic and Drew Eubanks operate when matched up against rookie center, and rebounding phenom, Walker Kessler? Markkanen, if he plays, is no slouch on the boards either. Utah’s rebounders will allow them to put pressure on the Blazers the whole game. The Blazers have to respond to win.
What Others Are Saying
Ochai Agbaji had the best game of his young career, with 27 points (57/60/100 shooting splits), five rebounds, three assists, and a big block. Agbaji looked like a scorer tonight. He was dribbling right up into threes, taking rhythm shots off movement, and actively seeking his shots. For the second game in a row, Agbaji’s shooting has come up clutch for the Jazz.
Ryan Miller of KSL.com talked about the team effort that led to a Jazz victory in their last game.
Utah had eight players in double figures, led by Agbaji’s career-night. And Hardy couldn’t help but praise everyone.
Kris Dunn had 18 points and 10 assists and closed the game for the Jazz, who did fall behind for a time in the fourth quarter.
Olynyk had 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and used his unique blend of size and versatility to be the engine for Utah at times. Hardy called him “unscoutable” because he doesn’t really have true tendencies. Sure, sometimes it can be awkward, but, like Monday, it can be quite effective.