I don't have good feeling about this. Sure, a few months ago when the Blazers had big men not on the injured reserve list, or on TMZ, a home game against Utah seemed like a sure thing. But now? All signs point to trouble.
While the Jazz have a losing record away from the Snuggie comfort of EnergySolutions Arena, this team is r-o-l-l-i-n-g. Utah has picked up wins in seven of their last eight games, and that one loss came on the road against—the second best homecourt team in the NBA—the Denver Nuggets. In the first of two meetings this week, the Blazers and the Jazz are tussling for the second place spot in the Northwest Division, a situation that might not repeat itself when they meet in Utah on February 3rd.
Nicolas Batum will see extended minutes, which is great news following his energetic offering Monday against New Orleans. The Blazers are also shuffling their starting lineup once again, placing Jerryd Bayless back into Brandon Roy's shoes, and Juwan Howard at the center position. Jeff [Insert Reptile Nickname Here] Pendergraph and Steve Blake will hang their heads and slink off to the second unit.
The secret to Utah's success: Carlos Boozer. No longer playing like tradebait—or Prince's angry landlord—Boozer is back to his old All-Star self, contributing double-doubles nightly, and averaging 25 and 14 over his past three games. Speaking of double-doubles, you can pencil one in for Deron Williams in advance. Oh, let's just say he'll score 19 points and toss 10 assists (that's his season average) against the Blazers. Throw in an assortment of committed role players from around the globe (Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur), D-League Cavs killah Sundiata Gaines, a head coach with four less career wins (1162) than the entire Clippers franchise has since 1971 (1166), and you have a team that could scare the pants off... oh never mind.