Trail Blazers vs Jazz Monday, 04/01/13 AT 06:00PM

Trail Blazers Look To Snap Losing Streak In Utah

04/01/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Portland Trail Blazers (33-40) head into Utah for the final meeting against the Jazz (38-36). Tip-off is set for 6PM at EnergySolutions Arena and it will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

      
     •    For the second time in three games, these two teams are meeting once again. Without LaMarcus Aldridge, you could see the Trail Blazers seemed to have a pep in their step throughout the first three quarters against the Jazz on Friday. Nicolas Batum was as aggressive as he had been in a few games, attacking the rim and getting to the foul line. Damian Lillard, too, was active getting to the line. Batum finished with 17 points on just six shots and Damian scored 24 points and dished seven assists. However, despite those efforts and 17 points and 14 rebounds from JJ Hickson, the Trail Blazers offense were bitten by the turnover bug late in the game. The Jazz made a 23-3 run to close the game and eventually win by the score of 105-95. The Jazz are currently in 8th place in the Western Conference, tied with the Lakers. The Trail Blazers will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak.
      
     •    Without Aldridge playing tonight, that means that Meyers Leonard will get his third consecutive start. Leonard has been solid, especially offensively in the games that Aldridge has missed. Against Utah, scored 12 points in 32 minutes on five of 11 shooting but he exploded for his first career double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds. Leonard showed no hesitation in his moves towards the basket in Oakland, whether it was dunks, long twos and even one three-pointer, Meyers was in rhythm all night. Leonard said after the game in Oakland that the increased playing time is "doing a lot" for his confidence and he stated that he needs to improve his defense and his rebounding. Not having Aldridge hurts the Trail Blazers greatly but seeing Leonard get confidence is certainly a positive for this team moving forward. Leonard had a great game in Oakland but the Jazz present more issues to an interior defense. Skilled big men have been a tough task for Leonard all year and the Warriors game for him is in the past (meeting Dave Chappelle on the other hand lives forever). Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors all had very good games in the Rose Garden on Friday night and Leonard and the Trail Blazers have got to figure out ways to slow them down. It will be interesting to see if Meyers can continue his offensive success and also put together a better defensive performance against a tough opponent on the road.
      
     •    Another aspect of the Jazz that the Trail Blazers must be ready for is Mo Williams. Williams has been the Jazz only real threat off the dribble at the point guard position for much of the season. In the first two meetings the Jazz did not have him but he made his presence felt in the second half, scoring 26 of his 28 points on the night. Damian Lillard is averaging 24.3 points and 6.7 assists per game against the Jazz this year. Dame scored 10 of his 24 points the other night at the foul line and didn't have his jump shot going. If Lillard can find his shot as he has been unable to in the past few games, it will certainly go a long way in helping the Trail Blazers snap their recent skid.
      
     •    For people that love fluidity in the game of basketball, we must look no further than tonight's match-up between Gordon Hayward and Nicolas Batum. Both Batum and Hayward are dynamic wing players who can effect multiple aspects of the game with their length and quickness. Hayward has continued to improve since being drafted out of Butler and Batum has also improved a lot as a passer in addition to his abilities as a shooter, rebounder and defender. Hayward, too, is a solid defender on the wing. Both players make the game look easy or as Terry Stotts would say, they have games that "flow." This match-up between two of the do-it-all wings in the Western Conference will only be the second time and final time they match-up this season.

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