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.
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).
Portland’s defense is a monstrosity https://t.co/2TbueqUMC1— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 28, 2021
FiveThirtyEight gives the Utah Jazz a 76% probability to win in Portland.
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.
Some Utah Jazz news: Donovan Mitchell is OUT and will NOT travel on this upcoming road trip. He has a lower back strain. So he misses the next two games— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) December 26, 2021
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.
CJ McCollum remains out with right lung pneumothorax while Jusuf Nurkic, Cody Zeller, Dennis Smith, Robert Covington, Ben McLemore, Keljin Blevins and Trendon Watford are all out due to health & safety protocols for Wednesday’s game versus Jazz.— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) December 29, 2021
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.