The Utah Jazz begin a quick, two-game road trip before Thanksgiving with a visit to the Portland Trail Blazers Saturday night. Utah looks to start a new winning streak after snapping a three-game losing streak Friday night vs. the Phoenix Suns. It won’t be easy as they roll into town against the surprise number #1 team in the Western Conference. In fact, that’s what makes this game so intriguing to even casual NBA fans. It’s still fairly early in the season, but I don’t think many fans expected the Portland TrailBlazers and the Utah Jazz to be #1 and #2 in the west at this point. Will both teams be energized and ready to battle on Saturday night?
The Blazers, to their credit, have looked fearless this year as they have notched some impressive wins, and they are playing well in the clutch despite having a relatively young team. The fact that they have already weathered a six-game road trip this early in the season and are still sitting at #1 in the conference is no small feat. They are a team that can beat anybody. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as a win on Thursday as they suffered a heartbreaking loss at the buzzer to the Brooklyn Nets. But this team looks resilient so far this season, and I expect that they will be tough to beat on Saturday night. The key for the Blazers will be defense and limiting the Jazz’s balanced scoring attack. The Blazers don’t have the depth that Utah does, so it will be critical for their starting five to throw the Jazz out of rhythm early and keep applying the defensive pressure throughout the whole game.
The Jazz come into this game with a chance to wrestle away the #1 seed in the west with a win. Not that being #2 at this point in the season is any less impressive than what the Blazers have done. Just like the Blazers, the Jazz have outplayed many teams that were expected to be better than them before the season started, including the Phoenix Suns, whom the Jazz defeated by 1 point last night. The lack of team drama makes it, so the players look like they are having a lot more fun this year, despite a recent three-game losing streak. Utah will need more than just good vibes from everybody in order to win this game, though. The defense-by-committee approach may be starting to lose steam as the Jazz have given up an average of almost 119 points per game in their last two, including a monster game from Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid dropped 59 points on the Jazz. The focus for the Jazz has to be to find a way to slow down or contain Blazers star Damian Lillard, who can also put up big numbers if he gets hot. If Lillard has a big game, it will be hard for the Jazz to overcome and get the win, so they must find a way to at least slow him down and make it, so he has trouble getting other teammates involved too.
As we enter Thanksgiving week, let us be thankful that the Utah Jazz are providing us with an opportunity to watch a meaningful game this early in the season and they still have plenty of time to tank so as Jazz fans we get the best of both worlds. It’s always a fun time when these two teams clash and hopefully Saturday will be no different, GO JAZZ!
When: 8:00 PM MT
Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Radio: 97.5/1280 The Zone