Trail Blazers Vs. Jazz Preview
April 11, 2014
By NOEY KUPCHAN
The surging Portland Trail Blazers are gearing up for the playoffs, and they're still in the running for home court in the first round.
A matchup with the Western Conference's worst team could help their chances.
Portland concludes its road schedule seeking its first season sweep of the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
The Trail Blazers (51-28) have proved nearly unbeatable over the last two weeks, winning six of seven while allowing 95.9 points per game. After getting by New Orleans 100-94 on Sunday, Portland escaped with a 100-99 victory over Sacramento on Wednesday thanks to Dorell Wright's 3-pointer with eight seconds left.
"It is good to get one of these close wins," coach Terry Stotts said. "It's been a while since we've won some close ones so no matter how it comes, it gives us a little momentum."
LaMarcus Aldridge led all five starters in double figures with 22 points, and Damian Lillard scored 19 to go with 10 assists. Portland sits in fifth in the Western Conference, 1 1/2 games behind fourth-place Houston.
While Stotts was pleased with Wednesday's result, he'd like to see more from his team with the postseason approaching. The Blazers were outrebounded 14-5 on the offense glass and surrendered 23 points off 18 turnovers.
"I don't know if we would have won a playoff game tonight," said Stotts, whose team led by as many as 15 late in the second quarter. "We showed signs of good basketball. Offensively, we moved the ball. We ended up with 26 assists. That's good to see.
"We did a lot of good things. My biggest concern going into the playoffs is sustaining the quality of play for basically the whole game. We had our ups and downs. We did a lot of good things on both ends of the court, we just have to sustain it."
The Blazers had dropped seven of eight to Utah before surrendering an average of 95.3 points in taking all three meetings this season. Wesley Matthews, who spent the first year of his career with the Jazz, has averaged 21.3 points while shooting 59.0 percent in those games, up from his season marks of 16.3 and 44.1.
Portland, 33-7 against teams with below-.500 records this season, has never swept Utah.
The Jazz (24-54) have dropped 18 of their last 21, with their only wins in that stretch coming against fellow last-place teams Philadelphia, Orlando and New Orleans.
"You just have to stay with it," rookie point guard Trey Burke said following Tuesday's 95-83 loss to Dallas. "The adversity that we're facing right now as a team, it's only going to make us stronger in the future. We have to be patient with that, just continue to fight out there, continue to play hard."
Utah was overmatched from the start against the Mavericks, who shot 16 of 17 over the first 12 minutes.
"It's tough to beat a team when they're shooting 94 percent in the first quarter," Burke said. "We can't allow that to happen."
Enes Kanter had 15 points and a season-high 19 rebounds off the bench as the Jazz held a 23-6 edge on the offensive glass. They also outscored the Mavericks 52-34 in the paint.
Utah is 1-29 against West foes this season when scoring fewer than 100 points.