Trail Blazers vs Jazz Friday, 03/29/13 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Look For Second Straight Win Against Jazz

03/29/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Friday night, the Trail Blazers (33-38) welcome the Utah Jazz (36-36) in another meeting of a classic Western Conference rivalry. Tip-off is at 7 PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. It is the third meeting between the two teams.

       
    •    Standings update: The Trail Blazers are currently three games back of the eighth place Los Angeles Lakers and 2.5 games back of the Jazz who are currently 10th in the standings.
     
      •    The Trail Blazers and Jazz didn't play each other for the first three months of the season until they played on back-to-back nights to kick off the month of February. Both home teams, the Jazz on the first night and the Trail Blazers on the second night, held serve. In Utah, the Trail Blazers lost Wesley Matthews to injury as they were trying to make a comeback in Salt Lake City. The Trail Blazers shot 36.7 percent that night and the Jazz also out rebounded the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard was really the only Trail Blazers to have a good night in his return to the state where he attended school for four years, scoring 26 points. The Jazz didn't have a great offensive night either, however, Al Jefferson's 21 points and 10 rebounds and DeMarre Carroll's 13 points off the bench gave them enough to win. Upon returning to Portland, Lillard picked up where he left off as he scored 23 points and dished eight assists. But the difference was, that he had help in the second meeting. JJ Hickson (21 points, 11 rebounds), LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Nicolas Batum (12 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) all had double-doubles while Batum was one assist shy of a triple-double. Nolan Smith also played a big role in the fourth quarter, playing all 12 minutes and scoring nine of his 13 points in the final period.
     
      •    There was one constant in the previous two games between the Jazz and Trail Blazers for Portland and that was the excellent play of Damian Lillard. One thing that could change things is that Utah has Mo Williams this time around. Williams is the only point guard who really possess a threat to the defense on Utah's roster. Williams and Randy Foye, who scored 23 points including six threes, start in the back court and both are threats to scored the ball. Williams is not as good as he was earlier in the year from the field, but is still a player you can't leave open on the perimeter as he is shooting 39 percent on threes in the month of March. Williams presence may make Dame expend a little more energy on defense than he did guarding Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson, neither much of a threat to score. However, Eric Maynor's return has helped Lillard in easing his workload. So, both backcourts will have to feel each other out in the early going as things will not be so familiar this time around.
     
      •    As far as injuries are concerned, Victor Claver said he felt good after Wednesday night's game after his return to action from a sprained ankle in his seven minutes of play. LaMarcus Aldridge is deemed "questionable" to play on Friday after he did not practice on Thursday. JJ Hickson did not practice either, as he battled an illness. Enes Kanter suffered a separated shoulder in Utah's last game against Phoenix and did not travel with the team to Portland.
     
      •    Despite the fact that Williams' return as well as Gordon Hayward, Utah's best wing player, and the absence of Enes Kanter (shoulder), the focus must continue to be on the interior. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors are all capable of having big nights and any one of them could dominate the interior on a given night. One game after Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez had their way, the Trail Blazers must mitigate the success of the Jefferson-Millsap-Favors front court if they want to defeat a deeper Jazz unit than the one they played nearly two months ago.

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