Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 2/2/13
Home-and-home, again. The Portland Trail Blazers split a home-and-home series with the Los Angeles Clippers just about a week back, and now they’ll try and do the same when they host the Utah Jazz in the second game of a back-to-back. Matchup: Portland (23-23) vs. Utah Jazz (26-21) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 Portland is just one game back of the eighth spot out West, and a split of this mini-series will be a good step toward returning to the playoffs. The Blazers have to do a better job of stopping Utah in the paint. (Photo: AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up Entering the first matchup between these two teams, we knew that the Jazz were going to have the advantage when it came to the paint. They were the better low-post offense, and they were going up against a low-post defense that has been awful all season. When it was all said and done, Utah outscore Portland 46-36 in the paint. The bigger story, though, was that the Blazers allowed Al Jefferson to take 22 shots in 37 minutes, and he made 10 of them while pulling down 10 rebounds. The matchups down low are going to be crucial come Saturday. If Portland can somehow limit the makes—or at least the attempts—from the Jazz’s frontcourt, they’re going to stand a much better chance of coming out on top. What to Watch: Portland It’s beome obvious that the Blazers simply aren’t going to get production out of their bench as it’s currently constructed. Luke Babbit was the team’s leading scorer off the bench Friday night with six points, and only two other players combined for four combined points in the loss. If the bench isn’t going to step up, the starters have to pick up the slack, and in the first matchup against this Utah team, that never fully happened. Nicolas Batum, who was playing with a hurt wrist, was held to just five points in 38 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge had a sub-par night offensively, as he finished with 16 points on just 6-of-7 shooting. Wesley Matthews also struggled to get going, as he recorded nine points in 27 minutes before leaving the game with an apparent ankle injury. Either the starters or the reserves have to produce come Saturday, and despite mediocre showings the night before, look for the starters to be the ones who step up. What to Watch: Utah The Trail Blazers shot just 36.7 percent from the field in this most recent matchup, and you have to assume that number will rise with the home crowd on their side. If that’s the case, and Portland is able to score closer to their average, Utah is going to have to find scoring outside of Al Jefferson. As convincingly as the Jazz beat Portland Friday night, they didn’t play a great game on the offensive end. Paul Millsap contributed a solid 15 points on 50-percent shooting, but the next-highest scorer was Randy Foye, who shot an ugly 4-of-17 from the field. Damian Lillard needs another big performance against the Jazz. (Photo: Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports) This team has players who are capable of scoring, but an ugly shooting performance like Foye’s will ruin the rythm that Utah needs to establish. The Blazers won’t likely be shut down the way they were Friday night, which means someone on Utah not named Jefferson or Millsap needs to produce. Key Matchup The key matchup in this contest is going to be between Damian Lillard and whichever of Utah’s many point guards are covering him. Damian Lillard was the No. 1 reason this team made a comeback during the second half of Friday night’s game. He took over control of the offense, and he began scoring the ball at a rate we hadn’t seen since his showing against the Golden State Warriors. It was obvious that none of Utah’s point guards could contain Lillard, so it will be interesting to see if they place a bigger body on him to slow him down. If they do, Lillard will have to adjust. If they don’t, he’ll have to remember what went right Friday night and duplicate it in round 2. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum Utah: N/A Prediction Saturday’s contest isn’t going to make or break the season regardless of the outcome. However, this team needs to regain momentum if they want to avoid the lottery come June. Blazers 98 – Utah 90 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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