Preview: Utah At Portland
When: 9:00 PM ET, Sunday, February 21, 2016
Where: Moda Center at the Rose Quarter, Portland, Oregon
Red-hot Damian Lillard and the surging Portland Trail Blazers look to avoid a letdown after an epic performance when they host the Utah Jazz on Sunday. Lillard posted a career-high 51 points to go along with seven assists, six steals and no turnovers in Friday’s shocking 137-105 rout of the Golden State Warriors, who dropped to 48-5.
It was the fourth straight victory and the ninth in 10 games for Portland, which climbed over the .500 mark (28-27) for the first time since Nov. 8. “A month ago, our goal was, ‘Let’s see if we can sneak into the playoffs,’” Trail Blazers forward Ed Davis told reporters. “Our mindset now is, ‘Let’s get a fifth, sixth seed, or however it goes, maybe win a series.’ We’re raising the bar for ourselves, and it’s starting to show.” Utah is in the middle of the same battle for the final few playoff spots in the Western Conference after winning eight of its last 10, including an impressive 111-93 triumph over Boston on Friday. The trio of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood lead the offense for the Jazz, who have not made the postseason since 2011-12.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ROOT (Utah), CSN Northwest (Portland)
ABOUT THE JAZZ (27-27): Utah rebounded from a rough performance in a 103-89 loss to Washington on Thursday to roll past Boston, led by a strong effort from the 6-10 Favors (23 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three blocks). Favors is averaging 21 points the last three contests while Hayward (team-best 19.9 overall) registered at least 20 in four of five and Hood has scored 20.2 points over the last six. Center Rudy Gobert (10.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks overall) has recorded a double-double in five consecutive outings.
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (28-27): Lillard is averaging 27.1 points and 8.6 assists during the 9-1 run by Portland, but Friday’s performance was special. “I felt in rhythm,” Lillard,who averages 24.9 points overall, told reporters. “The ball felt good in my hands. Once I saw the ball go in so much early in the game, that’s what helped me get going later in the game.” Backcourt partner C.J. McCollum (20.7) has also been productive while Maurice Harkless (13.8 points, last four games) and Gerald Henderson (13.1, last seven) are contributing.
1. The Trail Blazers have won two of the three meetings this season, including a 99-85 triumph at home on Jan. 13.
2. Utah PG Shelvin Mack could make his debut for the team after being acquired from Atlanta on Thursday.
3. Portland F Noah Vonleh got the start and scored nine points Friday after returning to the lineup from an ankle injury.
PREDICTION: Trail Blazers 106, Jazz 100