The Utah Jazz returned home and got back on the right side of the win-loss column with a five-point victory over the Golden State Warriors Wednesday. So what do they do next? Why, turn right around and go back on the road, of course.
This time it’s just a one-game trip to Portland to face the 18-13 Trail Blazers before getting a good respite. Following tonight Utah will have a four-game home stand before hitting the road for an Eastern Conference swing on Jan. 1st.
This will be the first regular season meeting between the Jazz and Blazers since Portland edged Utah out for the No. 3 seed in last year’s playoffs. The Blazers have had an up-and-down year not too unlike the Jazz so far this season, although with more ups than Utah has enjoyed. After starting the season 10-3, Portland dropped eight of their next 11. After that they won five of the next seven, including their current three-game win streak over playoff contenders the Raptors, Clippers and Grizzlies.
The Trail Blazers are similar to the Jazz in that they largely kept the band together, despite the Blazers’ disappointing sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans in the playoffs. The continuity plan has worked better for Portland so far, currently occupying the No. 4 seed in the West.
What that does mean is that these two teams are very familiar with each other, as are their fans. The story remains the same, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can bury you in an avalanche points but can be exposed defensively. Up front, Portland features a set of front court players who can stretch the floor. Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard boast long-range shooting percentages of 36, 33 and 44, respectively. Evan Turner remains an unproductive albatross contract. You know, same old same old.
When: 8:00 p.m. MT • Friday, December 21st, 2018
Where: Moda Center · Portland, OR
TV: NBA League Pass / AT&T SportsNet
Radio: 1280 AM/97.5 FM
Portland Trail Blazers:
What to watch for
Despite a respectable 17/6/5/2/1 line against the Warriors, the last time out wasn’t exactly a banner game for Mitchell. His 17 points came on 26 shots, as he posted percentages of 19 percent from the field and 18 percent from behind the arc. He also committed six turnovers.
Opposing guards can make hay against the Trail Blazers’ defensive backcourt. If Donovan can start hitting a few easy shots and focus a little more on distributing the ball, his night could be much more efficient. Regardless, Mitchell touching the ball early and often remains Utah’s best offensive strategy.