With 13 games left to go in this NBA shortened season, every game is precious and that couldn't be said any better regarding the Portland Trailblazers (25-28) and Utah Jazz (27-26) who are currently residing in the 9th and 11th spots in the Western Conference playoff run.
Tip-off for this matchup is scheduled for 10:00 pm ET at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
NBA odds are currently unavailable but stay close as we will have live odds below as soon as they're available.
Portland center Joel Pryzbilla is listed as day to day but don't look for the odds to be affected by his presence on the court.
These are the type of games where one game can make a difference and teams need to gut it out. Utah is coming off a 105-96 loss at Los Angeles (Clippers) while the Blazers are coming off a 119-106 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves (The Timberwolves take on the Kings today). All five starters included Jamal Crawford on the bench scored in double figures and the Blazers were able to hold superstar Kevin Love to single digits in rebounds.
This was a big game for Portland as the victory put's them .5 game ahead of the Timberwolves in the playoff race.
Aside from being the second best player on the Trailblazers squad and the second best NBA player from France, Nicolas Batum brings a refreshing energetic style of play that benefits Portland. The Blazers got rid of the right forward in veteran Gerald Wallace and kept the youth with potential.
Batum is a streaky player offensively. His points come in bunches. When he plays well, the rest of the team seem to follow his lead. Last night was a prime example of that as Batum poured it on in the second half as he had 24 points, five rebounds, and two blocks for the game. Batum can also shoot the three ball as he stroked 4 out of 9 from beyond the arc. A back to back situation won't hurt this young man. Look for Batum to play well against the Jazz and take some of the pressure off of leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge.
Getting the PT
The Blazers have to face the awesome power of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. The presence of power forward J.J. Hickson is much needed. Hickson was a monster when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He never got the recognition as he would muscle his way to a double-double most nights.
Thus far with the Blazers, he hasn't had much playing time and his season has been one that he'd like to forget. Although this is true, Hickson has come on as of late and gotten more playing time.
In his last four games, Hickson is averaging 19.3 points and 8 rebounds in extended minutes. He's shot with major efficiency, shooting an amazing 34 of 49 from the field. Look for Hickson to get more PT as Hickson is starting to play like he did in Cleveland. This is a player that can pay huge dividends for Portland as they face the Jazz and fight for a playoff berth.
Time to move on
The Utah Jazz got the same production that they usually do from the offense but this poor road team had a rough time containing CP3 (10 of 14) and Blake Griffin (10 of 16) as the two stars virtually couldn't miss from the field in a victory over Utah. Utah has lost 3 straight games and being that they rank 23rd in points allowed, will have to get a special effort other than from the combination of Jefferson and Millsap.
Miles or Hayward?
Shooting guard C.J. Miles has been playing poorly lately in the last 3 games and it shows in Utah's record. In these 3 games, he's averaging 5.3 points and has shot just 5 of 20 from the field. Miles hasn't been able to contribute much in other way. However, in his last game against Portland, Miles came up big with a 15 point performance in just 24 minutes. Utah need's something positive from Miles in this crucial game.
Big game player
I've mentioned this before, when you play for Butler in the NCAA tournament and are used to upsetting teams, that type of player understands pressure. Gordon Hayward has been a very nice complimentary player in this lineup. He's an oversized shooting guard at 6 foot 8 that can provide some offense and doesn't shy away from pressure situations. It's mandatory that the Jazz get a big game out of Hayward in hope of staying in the playoff hunt.
In his last 5 games, Hayward is averaging 15.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game. This is a player that know's how to hussle and know's how to win. Going up against the combination of Aldridge, Batum, and Hickson will be a major test for this young man.
Outcome of the game
The odds are currently unavailable and that makes it difficult to determine an outcome at this moment. I expect this game to be close. Portland will come out with major momentum but don't just expect the a poor road team like the Utah Jazz to just "lay an egg" in this spot. Some games are a matter of styles and even though everything is telling you to take Portland, the underdog Utah will keep this game close.
Monday night NBA pick: Utah Jazz