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Jazz look to jumpstart fumbling offense against the Blazers

The Jazz continue a short road trip against the Trailblazers where they look to get their historic offense back on track

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz
Mike Conley gets into the lane at home against the Blazers during their 129-107 win in late November
Photo by Chris Nicoll/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz finish up a short road trip tonight in Portland as they take on the Trailblazers. The game tips off at 8:00 pm MST on AT&T SportsNet for local fans, while the game is available on NBA League Pass for out of market subscribers.

Much has been made of Utah’s historic offense this year (#1 rank at 118.1 ORTG), but they’ve sputtered over the past few contests (#16 rank at 111.3 ORTG over past 5 games), per Cleaning The Glass.

The Jazz have an excellent opportunity to get their offense back on track tonight, where the #30 ranked defense on the season awaits. Recent performance for the Blazers on the glamor-less side of the floor hasn’t been much better, ranking #29 per CTG.

Portland Trail Blazers v Utah Jazz
Gobert went nuclear on the Blazers earlier this season en route to Utah’s best offensive performance.
Photo by Chris Nicoll/NBAE via Getty Images

Earlier this year Utah put up their best offensive night of the season, a 137.8 ORTG performance on the 29th of November. Gobert erupted with 21 points, 16 boards, 3 assists, and a block and a steal. Jazz were a team high +29 while Rudy roamed the floor.

It’s not unsurprising Portland’s struggles intersecting with the Utah’s ultimate offensive success. The Jazz are at their best when Rudy gets scoring opportunities. Offense around the rim from a big is a particular bugaboo of the Trailblazers (see Porzingis below go off just two days ago).

FiveThirtyEight gives the Utah Jazz a 76% probability to win in Portland.

Availability

A wrinkle in this matchup will undoubtedly be the injury and health/safety protocol absences for both teams. Here’s a quick break-down of what’s expected as of game day morning:

Donovan Mitchell did not accompany the team on this two-game road trip and will miss tonight’s contest. No other Jazz-men are expected to miss the game due to injuries or health and safety protocols.

Portland is absolutely devastated with a collection of injuries and health and safety protocols, all of which are likely to extend through tonight despite the recent protocol duration adjustments.

Donovan Mitchell was imperative to Utah’s efficiency at the rim earlier this season (going 7/9 in the paint). His abilities will surely be missed, though Jazz could have a layup line brewing with multiple frontcourt pieces missing for the Blazers.

A lot of the scoring load will be on Damian Lillard’s shoulders. Despite an uncharacteristically poor start to the season, Lillard is trending in the right direction (see his 6 game interval TS% below):

Damian Lillard’s 2022 True Shooting
Damian Lillard’s 2022 True Shooting % in 6 game intervals
Data thanks to NBA.com | Visual thanks to Adam Bushman, SLC Dunk

Damian is more than capable of carrying his team to a win on any given night, but he’ll have a heck of a time doing so with such a depleted roster against a prepared Utah Jazz.

Key things to watch

As you tune into tonight’s matchup, pay attention to these elements of the game which could prove essential for a win:

  1. Gobert getting involved early; I’d be shocked if the first play isn’t a look for Rudy and the first side out of bounds look isn’t a baseline pass and dunk for the big guy.
  2. Forcing the ball out of Lillard’s hands; Portland is dependent on shooting well to win. With such a depleted team, I imagine Utah looks to force others to beat them. Watch for how Utah goes about this.
  3. Not fouling the Blazers; Jazz are excellent at not fouling, but see a uptick in opponent free throw rate in losses while the Blazers experience a similar uptick in wins.

Interesting notes ahead of the game

  • The Utah Jazz are 14-12 with Rudy Gobert since 2/20/15 when he became the team’s full-time starting big.
  • Since the 2018-19 season, the Utah Jazz generate the 3rd highest eFG% of any team in the NBA against the Portland Trailblazers.
  • The Jazz have as many road wins (11) as the Trailblazers have home wins this season.