Jazz-Trail Blazers preview

As they begin the final month of the NBA’s regular season, the Jazz still have yet to win more than four in a row. But that may all change tonight when they play host to the Portland Trail Blazers at EnergySolutions Arena.

Tied for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff race, Utah can not only win its season-high fifth in a row tonight, the Jazz can gain ground on the L.A. Lakers, who have the night off.

The Jazz and Lakers are tied for the No. 8 in the West, but Utah (38-36) holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.

With eight games left to play, the Jazz simply have to win as many games as possible. Including tonight’s game, they play five of their last eight at home, where 27-9 this season.

“We’re fighting to get into the playoffs and that’s what it feels like,” said guard Randy Foye, who went 8-for-9 from behind the 3-point line in last Saturday’s home victory over Brooklyn.

“We’ve got to go out there and do what we do,” he added. “We really can’t worry about anything that (the Blazers) are doing.”

The Jazz beat Portland 105-95 on the road last Friday.

Point guard Mo Williams scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half of that game. He and former Weber State star Damian Lillard put on an offensive show against one another.

Lillard finished with 24 points and seven assists for Portland (33-40).

“He’s a terrific basketball player, I love his game,” Williams said of Lillard. “I’m a big, big, big, big, big fan of his game. I’m going to love him mature, love to see him grow. But we’re desperate tonight. It’s not about me and him.”

All five Utah starters are averaging double digits, including Williams, who comes in averaging 12.6 points and 6.3 assists per contest. Center Al Jefferson averages a team-best 17.4 points per game.

Jefferson was named the Western Conference’s Player of the Week on Monday. He averaged 19.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and and 1.5 blocked shots in helping the Jazz win four straight last week.

Portland is without All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (sprained ankle), who has missed three in a row.

Lillard averages 19 points and 6.5 assists per game.

Portland has lost four in a row.

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About Jim Burton

Jim Burton has worked for the Standard-Examiner since 1991. He has covered everything from the preps to Utah, BYU, Weber State and the Ogden Raptors. Currently he is the Standard's Utah Jazz beatwriter and its sports columnist.
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