Regular season winding down
April 1 will mark the beginning of a brutal stretch for the Portland Trail Blazers, and that’s no joke.
Matchup: Portland (33-40) @ Utah Jazz (38-36)
Venue: EnergySolutions Arena
Time: 6:00 PM PT
Date: Monday, April 1, 2013
The Utah Jazz will kick off the month, but the competition is set to ramp up with Western Conference playoff opponents at every turn the rest of the way.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
Come Monday night, the Blazers will take on the Utah Jazz for the second time in three days. The last meeting didn’t go Portland’s way, as a first-half lead turned into a second-half debacle.
When it comes to the major statistics, these two teams aren’t far apart. Portland averages 98.1 points per game while Utah averages 98.2, the Blazers allow 99.8 points while the Jazz give up 98.5 and only one rebound separates the two units.
If Portland plays up to its own abilities, this will be a hard-fought game on both sides of the floor.
Both of these squads are fighting for a spot in the playoffs, but Utah has the better chance at this point in the process. The Jazz keep winning, while Portland keeps losing, and it goes without saying that that’s the difference between making the postseason and making the lottery.
What to Watch: Portland
With the year winding down and the lottery nearing, the Blazers’ bench will start to see more and more minutes. Six reserves saw time on Saturday against Golden State, and five of them played double-digit minutes.
If the reserves enter the game and have an impact, life is good for Portland and its fans. However, if they come in and get blown out, you can at least keep your head high knowing that the team is increasing its chances in the lottery.
With LaMarcus Aldridge out for Monday (according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian), the Blazers will lack height in their second unit. Joel Freeland will likely be the man in the middle off the bench, and he’ll have quite the task ahead of him.
What to Watch: Utah
Just like the last time the Blazers saw Utah, they will have to look out for points in the paint.
Utah’s best asset is its frontcourt. Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap know how to dominate the boards, and as a result, they know how to get easy looks right at the rim.
On Friday, the Jazz outscored the Blazers in the paint 62-40. There was only a seven-rebound difference in Utah’s favor, but Portland allowed the road team to grab 13 offensive boards, which was simply asking them to score down low.
The Blazers struggle against most teams when it comes to containing the middle, but Utah has the tools to make life even tougher. The Blazers bigs must work hard on Monday, and they can’t let physical play stop them from finding success.
Meyers Leonard recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds against the Golden State Warriors, and he made nine of his team-high 17 shot attempts. He has momentum on his side, and we’ve all seen what he can do when he gets a little confidence.
As well as he played against the Warriors, don’t expect him to have an easy matchup against Utah. The Jazz are a far more physical team than Golden State, and they held Leonard to 12 points and three rebounds just a few days prior.
Al Jefferson is a tough cover for anybody, and that won’t change against Portland. Leonard has to learn not to bite on low-post fakes, and Jefferson will do everything in his power to bully and deceive the rookie this time around.
Portland: Out—LaMarcus Aldridge
Utah: Out—Enes Kanter
Portland has endured three straight double-digit losses, and EnergySolutions Arena will prove to be a difficult place to turn things around.