Jazz-Trail Blazers Preview

The Utah Jazz would like to avoid matching their longest losing

streak of the season. Avoiding that fate could also give them a

share of the final playoff position in the Western Conference.

The Portland Trail Blazers would just like to win back-to-back

games for the first time in more than two months.

The Jazz look to snap a three-game skid Monday night when they

visit the Trail Blazers for the first time this season.

Utah (27-26) has lost three in a row, putting it on the brink of

equaling its season-high four-game skid from Feb. 19-28. The

current losing streak has dropped the Jazz out of playoff position,

one game back of eighth-place Houston. The Rockets visit

league-leading Chicago on Monday.

Utah fell behind by 16 after the opening quarter Saturday, and

never recovered in a 105-96 road defeat to the Los Angeles

Clippers.

“We fought back enough to give ourselves a chance, but it just

wasn’t enough to get over the hump,” coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Al Jefferson is certainly doing his part, scoring 26 points on

13-of-22 shooting against the Clippers, one night after he scored

27 and pulled down 16 rebounds in a 104-103 loss to Sacramento.

Jefferson leads Utah with 19.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game,

but the Jazz didn’t need him in a 93-89 home victory over Portland

(25-28) on Jan. 30. Jefferson missed that contest due to an ankle

injury, but Paul Millsap picked up the slack with 19 points and 15

rebounds.

Millsap is averaging 18.3 points and 10.0 boards over his last

three meetings with the Trail Blazers.

While Utah is trying to snap its skid, the Blazers would like to

finally string a pair of victories together. They haven’t won

consecutive games since Jan. 23 and 24, and have alternated wins

and losses over their last seven contests.

Portland will try to end that trend after beating Minnesota

119-106 on Sunday as LaMarcus Aldridge returned to action.

Aldridge had 26 points and eight rebounds against the

Timberwolves after a left elbow sprain had sidelined him two days

earlier for a 98-97 loss to the Clippers.

“I just blocked it out,” Aldridge said. “When I’m out there I’m

going to play.”

Aldridge is averaging 23.6 points on 59.3 percent shooting over

his last three games. He finished with 25 points and seven rebounds

at Utah on Jan. 30, giving him an average of 23.4 points in his

last five meetings with the Jazz.

Blazers swingman Nicolas Batum had 15 points in the January

visit to Utah, but just nine in a 100-89 win Dec. 30, 2010, the

most recent meeting between these teams at The Rose Garden.

Batum scored 24 points in Sunday’s win, increasing his season

scoring average to a career-high 14.1.