Jazz-Trail Blazers Preview
The way LaMarcus Aldridge has been playing, he may end up
warranting discussion for league MVP.
Putting up terrific numbers for a Portland Trail Blazers team
which leads the Western Conference, Aldridge is coming off possibly
his best effort of the season going into Friday night’s home game
against the West-worst Utah Jazz.
“He’s the best power forward in the game,” teammate Wesley
Matthews said. “He’s got to be getting MVP votes with the way we’re
playing, with the level he’s playing at. He’s just willing us right
now. He’s awesome right now.”
Aldridge is averaging career highs of 23.5 points and 9.7
rebounds but has been particularly dominant in three games this
month, averaging 31.0 points on 59.1 percent shooting. The Blazers
won each of those games, defeating two of the league’s top teams,
following a loss at Phoenix which ended an 11-game winning
Two nights after beating East-leading Indiana, Portland halted
Oklahoma City’s eight-game win streak with a 111-104 victory
Wednesday behind Aldridge’s season-high 38 points and 13 boards. He
made a career-best 17 field goals in 28 attempts and even handed
out a season-high five assists.
“Offensively, obviously he can score,” coach Terry Stotts said.
“But I liked his toughness, I liked his leadership, I liked his
competitive fire. As much as he played very well, it was a lot of
the intangibles that I really appreciated from him.”
Portland (16-3) knows that when its star forward dominates,
things can open up offensively for others. The Trail Blazers shoot
41.0 percent from 3-point range, third-best in the NBA, and are
among the league leaders at 105.0 points per game.
They’re also doing the little things well, ranking in the top 10
in the NBA in rebounds and assists, while placing near the bottom
in fouls and turnovers.
Still, the Trail Blazers know that Aldridge is the engine that
runs the team.
“I don’t want to forecast any wins or anything, but when
(Aldridge) plays like that, and he’s been playing like that for a
few weeks now, we’re going to be tough to beat,” said center Robin
Lopez, who has three double-doubles in the last four games.
It doesn’t appear the Jazz (4-16) have the offensive punch to
keep up with Portland. Utah is scoring a West-low 91.2 points per
game, including a league-worst 88.7 in road contests.
The Jazz had been 0-9 in road games until winning their last
one, 112-104 at Phoenix on Saturday, and have played much better
since rookie point guard Trey Burke had his minutes extended.
The reigning NCAA player of the year missed the team’s first 12
games because of a fractured index finger. He’s started the last
six and has averaged 33.5 minutes in the past five, putting up 16.2
points and 5.0 assists per game as Utah has gone 3-2.
Burke has just two turnovers over the last four games while the
Jazz have averaged 13.0, compared to 17.8 through their first 16
“(Trey) does a good job out there controlling the offense,” said
Derrick Favors, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds in Wednesday’s
95-86 loss to Indiana. “He takes a lot of pressure off myself and
Gordon (Hayward) as being a facilitator and scorer. He’s a
pick-and-roll type player, so I know if I set good screens, he’s
going to get a shot or I’m going to get a shot.”
Burke had a career-high nine assists Wednesday.
Utah has won seven of eight versus the Trail Blazers, though
Aldridge didn’t play in four of those contests because of