Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/31/13
Comeback Kids The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off an emotional comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks, and they must keep their energy high if they’re going to take down the Utah Jazz on the road. Matchup: Portland (23-22) @ Utah Jazz (25-21) Venue: Energy Solutions Arena Time: 6:00 PM PT Date: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 If we’ve learned one thing this season, it’s that the Blazers are never out of a game. That being said, they’ll make life much easier on themselves if they come out strong and play a full 48 minutes against Utah on Friday. The Blazers are coming off an emotional comeback victory over the Dallas Mavericks. (Photo: Bruce Ely/The Oregonian). Game Notes/How They Match Up The Blazers and the Jazz are two teams who will be fighting until the end of the season for the final spots in the playoffs out West. While the month of January was a confusing one for fans in Portland, there was nothing confusing about the success Utah found. Between Jan. 2 and Jan 30., the Jazz won 10 of their 14 games, and they played well enough on a regular basis to never drop more than one game in a row. Portland, of course, experienced both winning and losing streaks, and they came out with an even 8-8 record. When Portland is clicking, they’re hard to beat. However, the road has been a troublesome place, for this young squad, and the Jazz’s home venue has never been an easy place for any opponent to come out on top. What to Watch: Portland The Trail Blazers are traveling to Utah to take on the Jazz, which means they’ll be playing inside the confines of Energy Solutions Arena. That couldn’t be more fitting for this Trail Blazers team, as energy truly is the solution to their concerns at this point. Wesley Matthews said it perfectly when he declared that the Blazers “get down like a young team and then come back like vets,” according to Ben Goliver of Blazer’s Edge. “We get down like a young team and come back like vets. It’s a weird dynamic.” — Wesley Matthews — Ben Golliver (@blazersedge) January 30, 2013 The common theme with this team as of late has been that they can’t close out games. But like Wesley Matthews admitted, the bigger issue is that they aren’t starting games they way they need to if they want to find success. The fans at Energy Solutions Arena are anything but kind to incoming opponents, but the Blazers need to play their own game, and act as if every first-half minute is as important as the closing seconds of a tight game. What to Watch: Utah Unlike Portland, Utah is capable of scoring inside on a regular basis. They are inside the top 10 when it comes to points in the paint, and their two leading scorers are Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, who will both dominate opponents with their big frames. Despite a prolific low-post offense, one area where they struggle is defending the paint. They are the second-worst team in the league when it comes to allowing points down low, and the Blazers should get their opportunity to challenge them in that area, should they choose. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson will challenge LaMarcus Aldridge on Friday. (Photo: Getty Images) The only problem with that last note is that while Utah is the second-worst team in the league, the Blazers are dead last. They give up the highest points-per-game average when it comes to points in the paint, which once again means Utah should be in full attack mode when it comes to scoring at the rim. Key Matchup When LaMarcus Aldridge is matched up against Al Jefferson, those two players are going to make up the offensive matchup of the game. The two big men are their teams’ leading scorers, and they both know how to score in a multitude of ways around the rim. However, the more realistic matchup is LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap, as the Blazers big man tends to stay away from the center position. Millsap was nearly a Trail Blazer back in the day when Portland extended him a “toxic offer” in free agency. Utah ultimately opted to match the contract, and while he’s proven to be an excellent big, he’s also been on the trade block as of late. Drama aside, the power forward position will be one to watch come Friday. Each team has their weapons, and all post players have a way of taking care of business regardless of who is playing defense. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Victor Claver Utah: N/A Prediction The Blazers have a tendency to fall off the map after big-time wins, but if they’re serious about making a postseason push, a road game against Utah is the perfect time to turn things around. Blazers 98 – Utah 90 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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