Trail Blazers/Jazz Pre-Game
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  1. DHawes22
    DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 02/03/2010 12:08 PM


    For the second time in a week, Portland (29-21) plays arch-rival Utah (29-18), only this time down in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake has not been kind to the Trail Blazers in recent memory, as Portland is currently 1-10 in their last 11 games played in the Salt Palace. There is reason to have hope for tonight's game, as the last time Portland won in Utah, LaMarcus Aldridge did not play and role players such as Martell Webster answered the bell to the tune of 25 points. Adding to Portland's chances of pulling off a difficult road win is the fact that both Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer will be inactive for the game tonight, which levels the playing field a bit more considering who is out for the Blazers.

    Outside of playing a road game in Cleveland, I couldn't think of a tougher matchup tonight for the Trail Blazers. Utah is the hottest team out West, winners of nine out of their last 10, including six straight. To make matters worse, Utah has really been the only team this year to handle the Trail Blazers and do it with ease as they jumped on Portland early and turned both games into routes, carrying leads of well over 20 points in both matches. When playing in hostile environments, such as Utah, the key to staying close is to control tempo, take care of the ball, and be aggressive. Obtaining points at the foul line not only slows the momentum down, but keeps the fan base at bay, which is where Andre and Jerryd could be factors. Miller has underperformed against the Jazz this year to put it kindly, boasting mild averages of 3.5 points, 3 assists, and 0 rebounds in the two meetings to date, but his poise and veteran leadership will be much needed tonight to overcome the many Jazz runs which are inevitable to hit the Blazers.

    Obviously Portland must hold Utah to less than 48 points in the paint, which is how many they gave up last Wednesday, but the real key to the game is assists. As long as Jerry Sloan has coached the Utah Jazz, that team goes as the passing goes. The entire offense is based around movement of the ball and player, ending up in open shots or lay-ups. During last week's game, Utah out assisted Portland, 27-16, proving why they are #1 in the NBA in total assists per game, 26.02 and assist differential, +6.74. Portland's best bet is to force Utah to be a one on one team for the night by fighting through screens, essentially not allowing the cutter to be open for the pass.

    For Portland to walk out of the Salt Palace with a win, Aldridge will need to work Millsap in the post at will. Paul is only 6'6", giving LaMarcus at least five inches of height on him. Millsap is the wider of the two, so LMA can't be content shooting turn arounds on him and fight back for position on the blocks. Also, I believe we will see much more Batum on Williams. He won't be able to shut down Deron, but if he can force him to be a jump shooter and take away some of his passing lanes, it could halt the Utah offense a bit. Finally, the bench must show up and outshine the Utah bench. If we can get a performance out of the bench as we did on Monday vs. Charlotte, it will be a great day to be a Blazer.

    With that all said, I still like Utah to continue their winning ways over Portland in Salt Lake City. The absences of Boozer and Brewer make this one much more winnable and gives me a little more hope, but the Sloan offense is a system offense and he can plug in nearly anyone and it will continue to run full charge. Give Coach Sloan and their staff credit for exploiting the interior of the Blazer defense since we have no true centers available for action. They did it last week and will continue to force the issue tonight. It should be one of those games where Utah is up about eight the entire way and Portland makes a couple pushes but never ends up with the lead.
    Game 51 Prediction: Trail Blazers 93 Jazz 103
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