The Utah Jazz (48-33) made another emphatic statement to the rest of the league at the Golden State Warriors’ expense. The Jazz eviscerated the defending champions 119-79 last night, which was their second win over 30 or more points against them at Salt Lake City this season. The Jazz also extended their current winning streak to six games. Donovan Mitchell led six Jazz players in double-digits with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting in just 26 minutes, but it was their defense that did the business as they held the Dubs to a pitiful 35 percent shooting from the field.
The Jazz will now conclude their regular season against the Portland Trail Blazers (48-33) for the right to claim the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Blazers are coming off a disastrous four-game road trip which saw them lose all four games, although three of those games did all come against playoff teams. Their most recent loss came at the hands of the Denver Nuggets, 88-82. The star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum had a rough shooting night as they combined to go just 13-of-40 from the field. However, they weren’t the only ones. The Blazers as a team shot a horrific 33 percent from the field and 21 percent from beyond the arc.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage – The Blazers are coming off a rough road trip which also wasn’t helped by Damian Lillard suffering a sprained ankle. However, they will have the advantage of being at home against the Jazz, who will be on the second night of a back-to-back. That should go some way toward slightly tilting the scales in the Blazers’ favor for this crucial matchup.
Blazers supporting cast – Speaking of Lillard, he likely isn’t at 100 percent at the moment after that aforementioned ankle sprain. He obviously must play better for the Blazers to stand any chance. However, it’s more important that the rest of Portland’s players contribute with their leader not at his best. It should be noted that Lillard has scored 33 or more points against the Jazz this season, but the Blazers still lost both games.
Jazz defense – Utah has been close to untouchable on the road, where they’ve lost just once since February. A huge part of their success has been their defense, which has been absolutely amazing. This game will have a playoff-type atmosphere, and with the Jazz’s defense as good as it is, it could be enough to edge out the Blazers.
Matchup to watch
Donovan Mitchell vs CJ McCollum – Mitchell has had success against seemingly every team he’s faced this year, and the Blazers are no different. The rookie will have another opportunity to star against McCollum, who hasn’t fared quite as well and has also been in a prolonged slump. But if the Blazers have any hope of beating the Jazz, McCollum will have to come up big.
Jazz projected starting lineup
PG – Ricky Rubio | SG – Donovan Mitchell | SF – Joe Ingles | PF – Derrick Favors | C – Rudy Gobert
Trail Blazers projected starting lineup
PG – Damian Lillard | SG – CJ McCollum | SF – Maurice Harkless | PF – Al-Farouq Aminu | C – Jusuf Nurkic
Mitchell has enjoyed facing the Blazers this season. He’s averaging 25 points and five rebounds in three games against them. Rudy Gobert has also been solid against Portland, with 14 points, ten boards, and three blocks per game.
As for the Blazers, Lillard will probably be the main man, even with the sore ankle. He’s lit up the Jazz to the tune of 32 points, six rebounds, and four assists in three meetings this season. And with McCollum struggling, Nurkic could be needed to continue his impressive form. Over his last 12 games, the Bosnian Beast has put up nearly 16 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks per game.
Even on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, it’s hard to bet against the Jazz at this point. They are just so locked in at the moment and shouldn’t really be fazed by the moment. And with Lillard likely not be quite at his best, the signs point to Utah coming out on top. Take the Jazz to win and cover the 3.5-point spread.
The Jazz claim the No. 3 seed in the West with a 106-99 road win.
This game will be broadcast on ESPN. Tip-off is at 10:30 pm Eastern.
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