Trail Blazers-Jazz Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 31, 2013
Aside from one historic setback, the Utah Jazz have recaptured their early season success on their home court. That's doesn't bode well for the Portland Trail Blazers, who have had a difficult time closing out wins on the road. The Jazz will try for their eighth win in nine games at home Friday night when they take on the Northwest Division rival Trail Blazers in the first of four meetings over the next two months. Utah (25-21) also looks to stay ahead of Houston and Portland (23-22) in a three-way fight for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Following a franchise-worst 125-80 home defeat to the Rockets on Monday, the Jazz responded with a 104-99 victory over New Orleans in Salt Lake City two days later. "It's tough to let a game like that go," forward Paul Millsap said. "You have to move on and put one foot ahead of the other and keep pushing." Utah won seven of eight - including victories over Miami and Indiana - at home in January. The Jazz went 10-4 during the month as they bounced back nicely from a rough stretch of seven losses in nine games at the end of December. Now Utah will try to carry that momentum into its first home date in February against a Portland team that has dropped three straight on the road. The Trail Blazers, however, have won three of four overall after a season-worst six-game losing streak. Portland hopes to build on its dramatic 106-104 victory over Dallas on Tuesday. LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points and 13 rebounds and hit the buzzer-beating jumper as the Blazers rallied from a 21-point third-quarter deficit. Aldridge, named an All-Star reserve, will try to stay hot after averaging 25.0 points on 21-of-34 shooting and 12.0 rebounds in his last two. "He is an All Star," forward Nicolas Batum said. "He's a go-to guy." J.J. Hickson also came up big with a season-best 26 points and 15 boards Tuesday. The veteran big man has averaged 16.6 points on 65.4 percent shooting over his last eight games. Guard Wesley Matthews could be a factor against the Jazz, having scored 22.7 per game in the last three meetings. Portland has averaged 102.3 points on 49.4 percent shooting in three straight home wins but has scored 93.0 points per game while hitting 42.9 percent from the floor in dropping four of six on the road. The Trail Blazers will try to turn that around against the Jazz, who have been getting solid contributions from Millsap. He is averaging 20.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in Utah's last three wins. Third-leading scorer Gordon Hayward, who has missed the last two games, is doubtful with a sprained shoulder. The Jazz are averaging 101.2 points at home, and they may be able to find some opportunities against the Trail Blazers, who allow 101.3 per game on the road. Utah has won four straight against Portland after sweeping the season series in 2011-12.
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