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Pre-Season Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (3-3) at Utah Jazz (4-3)

Oct 22, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Utah Jazz point guard Mo Williams (5) drives to the basket on Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0), power forward Jared Jeffries (1) and power forward J.J. Hickson (21) in the third quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 120-114. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

The Portland Trail Blazers will play the final game of their pre-season schedule tonight, taking on the Utah Jazz for the second time in a row.

Blazers’ Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard (21 pts, 8 ast, 4 reb, 2 stl ), SG Wesley Matthews (15 pts, 5 ast, 3 reb, 1 stl ), SF Nicolas Batum (27 pts, 3 stl ), PF LaMarcus Aldridge/Jared Jeffries (Aldridge DNP vs. Jazz; Jeffries: 4 pts, 2 reb), C J.J. Hickson (16 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk)

Jazz Starting 5: PG Mo Williams (15 pts, 7 ast), SG Gordon Hayward (8 pts), SF Marvin Williams (9 pts, 2 stl), PF Paul Milsap (7 pts, 6 reb), C Al Jefferson (14 pts, 4 rb, 1 stl)

Portland took Game 1 against the Jazz Wednesday, shooting 81 percent from the field for a 120-114 victory at the Rose Garden. But while their offense was firing on all cylinders, the defense, which coach Stotts has been preaching for all of training camp, was non-existent.

In tonight’s rematch, the Blazers will look to mimic that same offensive production, but with an increased effort on the defensive end. Whether LaMarcus Aldridge will play tonight is unknown, but if he does, he should be able to lead Portland to their fourth pre-season victory.

What To Watch For:

  • With a combined 61 points, Utah’s bench scored more than their starters in less playing time. Portland’s got to do a better job of stopping the Jazz’s second string players from lighting the court up.
  • This is the LAST game for players to try to make the roster. Tonight’s the game where the players at the end of the bench — Justin Holiday, Demonte Harper, Dallas Lauderdale, Adam Morrison, Coby Karl, Sasha Pavlovic — will have one shot to leave it all on the floor in an effort to show somebody in the NBA that they can contribute to a team. Look for a lot of energy and intensity from these guys when they hit the court.
  • Damian Lillard scored 21 points on only eight shot attempts. That kind of efficiency is something he needs to keep up if the Blazers want to win more games.
  • Enes Kanter was perfect from the field, putting up 18 points, seven-for-seven, off the bench. Portland’s got to find a way to contain Utah’s bigs, or else the outcome of tonight’s could be very different.

If both teams treat this game as the Northwest Division rivalry that it truly is, tonight will be a great game to see where the Blazers (and the Jazz) stand this season.They’re both sitting on the outskirts of the Playoff picture, and while the Jazz are more of a favorite to land the eighth seed in the West, Portland still has a shot if a) they can stay healthy and b) their rookies grow up quickly.

Topics: NBA General, Nba Pre-season, Portland Trail Blazers

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