4th time is a charm right?
Unfortunately, that’s the stance the Blazers have to come with for tonight’s nationally televised battle against the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have *gulp* dominated the Blazers this season, with two victories in Utah and a beatdown in Portland. None of those losses have been pretty either. This will be the third time these two teams have played in a month, so don’t expect a major-league breakdown. If you were expecting Doris Burke type analysis I’m about to give you Jalen Rose. Utah comes into tonight’s contest having won 16 of their last 18 games, so you can say they are playing well and look smart. Portland’s biggest problem has been their near complete inability to guard the Jazz. We’ve said it before and we will say it again, without Pryzbilla and Oden there is not a team we match up worse with than the Utah Jazz. They are physical, have a strong frontline and attack the basket at will. Not to mention they have shooters who can spread the floor, they execute their offense and have multiple weapons at all times. Our interior defense hasn’t been ‘tested’ by the Jazz…it’s been ran thru. In three contests on the season the Jazz are averaging 110.6 points a game on us, and shooting an average of 61% (123-for-201) from the field in those contests. Just to put that in perspective of how badly the Jazz have owned us this year, the Nets on average only let their opponents shoot 48% and they are putrid.
With Utah, you know the personnel. You know the style of play. You know how they can beat you. The challenge for Portland is to just try and find a way to win this one. They have to compete for results on both ends of the floor. Friday, I’m not sure we can say the Blazers did that. Portland can’t settle offensively. They may not have a 100% Roy (I guarantee he’ll be better than Friday) but that is no excuse for the disappearances of Batum, Rudy and Webster. The spotlight is firmly on these guys and right now they have to produce. Bottom line. Defensively, they can’t just let the Jazz get another layup line. I mean…giving up 60% almost every game to this team is flat out embarrassing! Camby can help but he definitely won’t be the magic band-aid against Utah.
If Portland wants to win, it starts on the defensive end. They have to find a way to get stops against the Jazz. I’m not afraid that they can’t score on them, it just won’t matter if they can’t stop them. Boozer/Millsap/Okur/Kirilenko/Williams have all had their moments wreaking chaos on Portland this year. If they don’t defend with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and effort than the result may not be pretty.
This is a pretty big game. Is it the end of the world? No. But it’s still significant. Right now the Blazers are in need of a shot of confidence. If you look at everyone else in the Northwest Division, they are all playing with their heads up. The Thunder, Nuggets and Jazz are all streaking while the Blazers seem to still be walking in the clouds. They need a win to restore confidence, but then again they need to pick up as many home wins as they can. Because what looms behind them is a nasty 5-game road trip. Portland has given away too many home games this season and they just have to find a way to get this one done tonight. If anything they need to start realizing what’s on the line. Tonight, we’ll learn a lot about this team. Is that fire, determination and resiliency we saw in the first half of the season still there? Does Portland believe they can beat good basketball teams? A lot of questions must be answered.