Al Jefferson will try to lead the Jazz in a two-game sweep over the Blazers Friday night. Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Blazers (23-23) Vs. Utah Jazz (26-21) **UPDATE**

Here we are, running it back once again. If you don’t know what that means, read my preview to Portland’s match-up with the LA Clippers just about a week ago, the second night of their first home-and-home back-to-back.

I’m going to keep it short, again, because I went into detail yesterday about the match-ups between these two teams for their first game in Salt Lake City. Little has changed in 24 hours, expect that Portland will probably be without Wesley Matthews who turned his ankle Friday night and is a game-time decision for Saturday.

It’s a relatively big loss for the Blazers, but considering the way Friday went down (almost all of Utah’s scoring came from their front court) there’s a possibility missing Wesley won’t total destroy Portland’s chances at getting an important win.

Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Will Barton SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson

Jazz Starting 5: PG Jamaal Tinsely, SG Randy Foye, SF Marvin Williams, PF Paul Millsap, C Al Jefferson

I’ve only got one thing to say about match-ups: the success of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter inside on Friday means Utah is likely to double their efforts in that direction. It will be on Portland’s bigs to adjust. The Jazz aren’t changing their game plan one bit.

What to Watch For

  • Who makes the better adjustments and who makes them faster. I wrote in my recap of last night’s game that Ty Corbin’s move to put Derrick Favors on Luke Babbitt was a pretty impressive tactical decision. If Corbin goes to that match-up again on Saturday, it will be on Terry Stotts to make a counter move (or on Luke Babbitt to knock down a couple of three pointers). Maybe the move by Stotts is to keep Luke out of the game and go away from the stretch-four look. Maybe the move is something we haven’t seen yet. Planning for one game is about figuring out the things your opponent does best and trying to limit or disrupt those things. Planning for a team you’re playing against for the second time in 24 hours is about identifying where things went wrong or went right and changing your tactics to address and fix what went wrong and maximize what went right. Whichever head coach makes the better and the fastest adjustments wins on Saturday.
  • Will somebody unexpected step up. Steady play from Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap gets the credit for Friday’s win, but it very well could have been the 13 points off the bench from DeMarre Carroll that were the difference maker. Carroll averages 5.8 points per game. His 13 Friday matched his second-highest scoring output of the season. He might regress Saturday, but some other guy on the Jazz roster might step up. What would be even better, though, would be an unexpected Blazer stepping up and having a big night. Will Barton might get the start for Wesley Matthews, it could be him. Victor Claver played 17 minutes Friday night (he could get the start too) and didn’t score, but there’s always a chance he breaks out if his minutes are increased on Saturday. And of course there’s always Luke Babbitt.
  • Shooting, shooting, shooting. If Portland’s throws up the number of bricks on Saturday that they chucked up on Friday, they’ll basically be sunk. I imagine LaMarcus Aldridge will turn it around, he rarely has two bad shooting nights in a row. Damian Lillard was hot on Friday, hopefully that will carry over to Saturday.

@mikeacker | @ripcityproject | [email protected]


Wesley Matthews is a game-time decision, and as it is not yet game time, nothing has been announced. Nothing except that should Wesley be unable to play, Victor Claver will get the start, as we’ve seen before. I penciled in Will Barton maybe because I want to see Will get into the starting lineup, and if I will it maybe it will become reality. Like I said, though, Claver put in some good minutes (if unproductive scoring-wise) in SLC. I feel like Vic is just waiting to bust out with a big game. And there is no time like the present.

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