Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#571 Portland Trail Blazers vs.
#572 Utah Jazz
Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 10:05pm EDT
Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City
Written by Roberto Arguello

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The Jazz host the Trail Blazers Thursday night in the second of three meetings between these teams this season. Rudy Gobert scored a team-high 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as he led the Jazz to a 120-100 victory over the Trail Blazers in their previous matchup on the opening night of the season.

After winning four straight games against bad (or shorthanded) teams, the Trail Blazers have lost two of their last three games after being blown out 133-116 by the Clippers on Tuesday. The Jazz are also looking to bounce back after a 117-113 overtime loss in Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Can Lillard Find His Form?

If the Trail Blazers cover as seven-point underdogs, they will need their three sharpshooters - Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Norman Powell - to shoot the ball efficiently from beyond the arc to keep up with Utah’s potent offense, especially if Nurkic can’t play. Norman Powell (toe) is probable while Jusuf Nurkic (knee) is questionable to play Thursday. Zach Collins remains out indefinitely.

The Jazz’s defense is a big challenge for this Trail Blazers offense that shoots the second-most threes (43.7% of their shots) and shoots them at the seventh-most accurate percentage (38.7%) in the NBA. Per Cleaning The Glass, the Jazz allow the fewest three-point attempts (31.4% of shots) while forcing their opponents to shoot threes at the fourth-lowest percentage in the NBA (35.1%).

Damian Lillard will need to step up from his recent form for the Trail Blazers to score enough against Utah’s elite defense. For the first time this season, Lillard is coming off of back-to-back games where he failed to score at least 20 points. Lillard has made a combined eight of 29 shots and has connected on just four of 13 three-point attempts in the last two games. Lillard has been playing through a leg injury (which, in my opinion, is the reason why his shooting hasn’t been up to his lofty standards over the last eight games), and he will need to have a big night for the Trail Blazers to have a chance to be competitive because of their horrendous defense that ranks 29th in defensive rating (117.8 - excluding garbage time).

Jazz Looking for Their Shooting Rhythm

If the Jazz win and cover as home favorites, it will be because they get back to shooting threes at an elite level. Mike Conley (right hamstring injury management), Juwan Morgan (calf), and Elijah Hughes (illness) are all doubtful to play Thursday.

The biggest reason the Jazz came up short against the Suns was that they couldn’t hit outside shots. The ball stuck more than normal in the halfcourt for the Jazz as Utah didn’t have a single-player shooting above 33% on threes outside of Joe Ingles (who was just 1-2). With Conley likely unavailable on Thursday, the Jazz will need to move the ball more so that the ball finds open shooters and is more egalitarian than having Donovan Mitchell attempt 35 shots for the second straight game. Utah leads the NBA as threes make up 45.1% of their shot attempts this season, and they are the third-most accurate team from beyond the arc as they are making 39.9% of their threes.

Mitchell has been playing great basketball lately, but many of his teammates have been incredibly efficient as Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, and Royce O’Neale all rank in at least the 86th percentile (among their respective position groups) in points per 100 shot attempts. Ingles has been awesome this season as a scorer and distributor as his 146.3 points per 100 shots rank in the 99th percentile among forwards, and his 21.5% assist rate ranks in the 92nd percentile among forwards.

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While both teams have top-five offenses, the Jazz defense is second in defensive rating (107.7) while the Trail Blazers defense has the second-worst defensive rating (117.8) in the league. The Trail Blazers will likely be without their best big as Nurkic is questionable, and this will make a tough matchup against Rudy Gobert inside even more difficult. With Lillard not looking 100% healthy lately, expect the Jazz to win and cover as home favorites.

Prediction: Jazz -7

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The Jazz defense playing on the second leg of a back-to-back after a tough overtime loss will be the difference in the total going over or under. While I expect the Jazz to be effective enough defensively to win and cover, the Trail Blazers have three elite shooters between Lillard, McCollum, and Powell, and they will make enough shots to send the final score over the total. The Jazz will have better ball movement offensively after a difficult matchup against the Suns as they get back to playing elite offensively.

Prediction: Over 231
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Written By Roberto Arguello , "Roberto Arguello"

Roberto is a college basketball and NBA sports betting analyst. Prior to joining our team at Winners & Whiners he broadcasted for PGA TOUR LIVE and was the voice of Stanford Football on KZSU 90.1 FM. His sports betting articles have been featured on Sporting News, The Action Network, and BetQL. Roberto enjoys long romantic walks through the fairways and fullback handoffs.