by Alma Bean
Feature Image: Photo by Ryan Sun of Deseret News.
The Utah Jazz (35-36) looks to tie the season series against the Portland Trail Blazers (31-40) in their final meeting of the season.
What to Look For
Utah is currently on a two-game winning streak while Portland is on a six-game losing streak. During their losing streak, Portland is averaging 107.2 PPG while their season average is 114.2 PPG. Though a losing streak may be discouraging, Portland owns a 2-1 season series lead against Utah this season. Portland was the underdog in each game with two games being within five points of each other while Portland’s biggest win was by 10 points.
Utah will look forward to having a familiar face back in the starting lineup as Lauri Markkanen returns after being out last game with lower back spasms. As Utah’s leading scorer (25.4 PPG) and rebounder (8.6 RPG), this will alleviate some pressure from players like Kelly Olynyk. Also, though Jusuf Nurkic is having a down year compared to last season, still expect to see him try to challenge Walker Kessler for a physical battle in the paint.
Though Portland has an under .500 record, their shot selections are methodical. They’re in the bottom three in the league in field goal attempts (84.5 FGA) but are in the top half of the league in field goal percentage (47.8%). Portland is also top-10 in the league in three-point percentage (37.1%) as their roster is built to thrive from the perimeter.
Key of the Game
Damian Lillard. As long as Lillard is on the court, he is your main focus, especially being the third-best scorer in the league with 32.2 points per game. The last time these teams met, Lillard scored 60 points on 21/29 (72.4%) shooting while still gathering seven rebounds and eight assists. Utah’s guards will have the difficult assignment of guarding Lillard, but if anyone is going to provide pressure, expect it from Ochai Agbaji and Kris Dunn. Though Talen Horton-Tucker is a large body to go against, Lillard would challenge Horton-Tucker’s perimeter defense.
Portland- Ibou Badji: Out (knee), Jerami Grant: Out (quad), Nassir Little: Out (concussion), Anfernee Simons: Out (foot), Justise Winslow: Out (ankle)
Utah- Jordan Clarkson: Out (hand), Micah Potter: Out (G League), Collin Sexton: Out (hamstring)
Where to Watch
Tip-off between Portland and Utah will be at 7:00 p.m. MT on AT&T SportsNet.