National Basketball Association
Portland at Utah
When: 9:00 PM ET, Friday, February 23, 2018
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
The Utah Jazz were the hottest team in the NBA entering the All-Star break and hope to remain on a roll when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. The Jazz turned around a disappointing first half with 11 straight wins entering the break, including a 115-96 triumph in Portland on Feb. 11.
The surge pushed Utah to within 1 1/2 games of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and just 4 1/2 games out of third place, although the players are not looking too far up in the standings. "If we ever start to feel good about ourselves, all we have to do is take a look at the standings," center Rudy Gobert told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We're still in 10th place." The Trail Blazers are in the middle of the tangle of teams ahead of the Jazz, resting in a tie with sixth-place Denver after entering the break with three wins in four games. They rode Damian Lillard's 44 points to a 123-117 win over Golden State in their final game prior to the intermission.TV:
9 p.m. ET, NBCS Northwest (Portland), AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (Utah)ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (32-26):
Lillard has been on a tear of late and averaged 44.3 points in his final three games entering the break before pouring in 21 in 21 minutes in the All-Star Game. "We've got to go out there with that mindset that we've got to dominate the [rest] of the season," Lillard told reporters at practice Thursday. Lillard often needs fellow star guard CJ McCollum to play well for Portland to be at its best, but McCollum was just 8-for-22 from the floor in the loss to Utah earlier this month.ABOUT THE JAZZ (30-28):
All-Star weekend allowed rookie Donovan Mitchell to show off a bit more, as the dynamic 21-year-old recorded five steals and seven assists in the Rising Stars Challenge before winning the Slam Dunk Contest. "It was a lot of fun, and it was a little tiring," Mitchell told reporters. "It was a long weekend, and it was my first time doing All-Star weekend, so I wanted to do everything possible. But the thing I have to remember is that was last Saturday, and last Saturday was last Saturday. Now, it's back to the season." Mitchell scored at least 24 points in his last four games prior to the break, including 27 in the rout of the Blazers.BUZZER BEATERS
1. Gobert has four straight double-doubles and at least 10 rebounds in seven consecutive games.
2. Lillard made all 41 of his free throws over the last five games.
3. Portland signed G Brandon Rush to a 10-day contract Wednesday.PREDICTION:
Jazz 110, Trail Blazers 104
Stats and Records