Dec 9, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke (3) drives between the defense of Portland Trail Blazers small forward Dorell Wright (1) and point guard Mo Williams (25) during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. Portland won 105-94. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz


Tonight at 7:00 p.m. PST, the Portland Trail Blazers (36-18) host the Utah Jazz (19-34) at the Moda Center. The Trail Blazers are coming off of a 111-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at home Wednesday night. It marked the first time all season that Trail Blazers have lost three consecutive games. They will try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss without their leading scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge.

Even without LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Freeland, and Meyers Leonard, the Trail Blazers played big inside. They were able to outrebound the Spurs 45-40 and outscore them in the paint 54-42. Yet the main struggle continues to be late game defense. Portland allowed the Spurs to shoot 48.9% and gave up 49 points to their bench. “Without LA out there, that makes it tougher obviously,” said Damian Lillard. Lillard had a game high 31 points in his first game back after the long All-Star weekend.

The Utah Jazz had a season-high three game winning streak heading into the All-Star break. One of those wins came in impressive fashion against the Heat. They lost a close battle against Brooklyn on Wednesday (105-99) in their first game back. The Jazz had to play without Derrick Favors who is averaging 12.9 points and 9.0 rebounds. They were able to out-rebound the Nets but were outscored 48-40 in the paint. After hoping to have Favors available for tonight’s game, they must play another game without him as he did not travel with the team to Portland.


Injury News

Portland Trail Blazers:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge will be out as he continues to recover from his groin strain.
  • Nicolas Batum missed practice Thursday leaving his status uncertain for tonight’s game.
  • Meyers Leonard will not be available due to a sprained left ankle.
  • Joel Freeland will also be sidelined due to an MCL sprain in his right knee.

Utah Jazz:

  • Derrick Favors will be out after suffering what is being classified as a sprained right hip against Philadelphia on February 12.


Keys To The Game

Damian Lillard vs. Trey Burke. Lillard and Burke won the All-Star Skills Challenge together. Both looked quick and crisp in all of the activities. Tonight, they will go head-to-head for the third time this season. Lillard has had the upper hand against the rookie through the first two games. Lillard is averaging 19.5 points and 4.5 assists while Burke is averaging 11.0 points and 3 assists. It will be important for Lillard to exploit this match-up and look to score like he did against the Spurs. Without Aldridge, he is next in line.

Limit Alec Burks. You probably thought you’d never see Burks on this list. You might not even know who he his. Burks is a third year player out of Colorado. The Jazz reserve guard is averaging 24.3 points on 60% shooting in the last three games. The last time he played against the Trail Blazers, Burks had a team-high 20 points on 8-11 shooting. The Trail Blazers just gave up 29 points to Spurs reserve guard Patty Mills. The second unit must keep Burks from having an impact on the game.

Bench Production. Another game without LaMarcus Aldridge. Another game that the reserves must provide offense. On Wednesday, the Blazers bench provided 31 points. Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson were the two main scorers scoring 19 points and 10 points respectively. Robinson also grabbed nine rebounds, leaving him one short of his first double-double of the season. The Jazz bench was able to put up 38 points against the Nets. With the Trail Blazers lineup shaky going into tonight, there is no time to underestimate the Jazz.



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Tags: Damian Lillard LaMarcus Aldridge Nicolas Batum Portland Trail Blazers Thomas Robinson

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