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Utah Jazz vs Portland Trail Blazers: Game Preview

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Fighting for home court vs fighting for playoffs

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers (38-39) lost a nail-biter at the Timberwolves’ home court last night, 109-110. They’ll play the Jazz (47-30) tonight, who play the Timberwolves again on Friday, and then play at the Blazers again on Saturday. The whole schedule over this next week is crazy - between these three teams, they play five times! Here’s a table to clear things up:

The Jazz need to win all three of these games to stay in the hunt for the home court, but the Blazers are 8-2 in their last 10, and the Timberwolves continue to be #pesky. All teams playing are injured and tired. Let’s check out the injury report and lineups for today’s game.

Injuries

Utah Jazz:

George Hill: Out (Groin). George Hill has hit a wall, and the pileup of injuries hasn’t helped.

Raul Neto: Out (Groin). Raul Neto has played well in the limited minutes he’d been given. Oh well, at least we can now see the #MackAttack, right?

Derrick Favors: OUT (Knee). Still no healthy Favs. :( He hasn’t played since March 6th.

Portland Trail Blazers

Jusuf Nurkic: OUT (Right Leg Fracture). Jusuf Nurkic was on fire the last few games he played, posting 33 points, 15 rebounds, and two blocks against his old Nuggets team. However, last Friday night, it was found that he had a non-displaced fracture in his right leg. His absence will be huge.

Ed Davis: OUT (Shoulder). Davis underwent successful shoulder surgery in mid-March, and as such will miss the rest of the 2016-17 season.

Festus Ezeli: OUT (Knee). Festus hasn’t played at all this year, and underwent season ending knee surgery in mid-March.

Projected Lineups:

PG: Dante Exum vs Damian Lillard

SG: Rodney Hood vs CJ McCollum

SF: Gordon Hayward vs Mo Harkless

PF: Boris Diaw vs Al-Farouq Aminu

C: Rudy Gobert vs Meyers Leonard

While Noah Vonleh started the last game, Aminu’s great performance will probably move him into the starting lineup. I wouldn’t be surprised if Vonleh started in place of Leonard either, as Leonard has been atrocious.

Key Matchup: Dante Exum vs Damian Lillard

Dante hasn’t developed as much as we would have liked, but he will definitely be needed to contain Damian Lillard on the defensive side of the ball. Lillard has been on a tear in the last 10 games, with 29.7 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds. Dante on the other hand... well, remember this dunk?

X-Factor: Small Ball vs the Wasatch Front

The injury to Jusuf Nurkic has forced Terry Stotts to play (small ball power forward) Al Farouq-Aminu at center numerous minutes last night against Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves. Despite his great game (20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks), the lack of options for the Trail Blazers inside (Mo Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard?) will allow Rudy Gobert to dominate. Even Boris Diaw took it to the SpursDavis Bertans last night. But all of Portland’s bigs can shoot it (some) from distance. If they can successfully pull the Jazz big men out of the paint, Lillard and McCollum will have a field day.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction: Jazz win

The Jazz have handled John Wall and Bradley Beal, and beat the Blazers in their last matchup, so hopefully they’ve figured out how deal with teams with small, fast, high-scoring guards.