Trail Blazers Vs. Jazz Preview
December 9th, 2013
By TAYLOR BECHTOLD
The Portland Trail Blazers have been the Western Conference's best road team during their best start in 23 years, though they'll have to end their struggles in Utah to avoid their first consecutive losses.
If their most recent performance against the Jazz is any indication, that shouldn't be much of a problem. The West-best Blazers look for their first win in five trips to Salt Lake City on Monday night when they try to beat the NBA-worst Jazz for the second time in three days.
Portland (17-4) had its four-game winning streak overall and eight-game run at home snapped Saturday when Monta Ellis drained a 21-foot jumper as time expired to give Dallas a 108-106 victory.
Damian Lillard matched a season high with 32 points and hit 5 of 9 from beyond the arc - including a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left that tied it at 106. Nicolas Batum added 22 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 19 points and 13 rebounds.
"It's all a part of it," said Lillard, who is 10 for 15 from 3-point range in his last two games. "Sometimes you just lose games."
The Blazers, off to their best start since winning 27 of 30 to open the 1990-91 season, hope to get back on track as they begin a stretch with five of six games on the road.
They have the West's best road mark at 8-2, winning eight of nine away from home after losing their season opener in Phoenix. Portland, however, hasn't had much success in Utah, dropping four straight visits and 20 of 24 over the past 12 seasons.The Blazers didn't have much trouble dispatching the Jazz (4-18) at home on Friday when they led by as many as 42 points on the way to a 130-98 victory.
Lillard and Wesley Matthews combined for 45 points on 15-of-20 shooting, including 9 of 12 from 3-point range. Portland went a franchise-best 17 of 23 from beyond the arc, setting an NBA record for any team with at least 20 attempts.
While Lillard ranks second in the NBA with 62 made 3s, Matthews is right behind with 56. The Blazers have the NBA's second-best 3-point percentage (41.8).
"It wasn't a lack of effort," Utah's Gordon Hayward said of Portland's historic performance. "It just started to snowball on us."
The Jazz seemed to make an adjustment on the perimeter in their last game, limiting visiting Sacramento to 3-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc in a 112-102 overtime loss on Saturday.Trey Burke gave Utah its final lead at 102-101 with a 3-pointer before the Kings put up the final 11 points of overtime. Burke finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Hayward had 22 points and Alec Burks added 19.
Following a promising 3-1 stretch, the Jazz have dropped three straight while shooting just 41.2 percent from the field. Making matters worse, starters Derrick Favors (sore back) and Marvin Williams (heel) are questionable against the Blazers.
While Portland has given up an average of 106.7 points over its last six games, Burks was the only Utah player with more than 10 points and Hayward the only starter in double figures in Friday's meeting.
Aldridge, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the Blazers, is averaging 26.4 points and 12.0 rebounds in five games this month.