Blazers week ahead 3/25

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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Game of the Week

Friday: Jazz vs Blazers, 7 p.m. at Rose Garden Arena (CSN)

Key matchup: Portland's desire to move up in the standings versus Utah's ambivalence toward the postseason. Since Feb. 23, the Jazz have gone 3-11 and slipped from the final spot in the Western Conference playoff picture to ninth. Recently, Utah coach Ty Corbin admitted that the looming summer of change — when eight players will become free agents — could be a reason behind his team's late slippage. So while Jazz players are waffling on whether they want to make the playoffs or even stay in Salt Lake City, the Blazers' locker room still buzzes with the most distant of hopes that they'll move ahead of the Mavericks, Jazz and Lakers and slide into that eighth spot.

Key stat: The Jazz ball handlers haven't made many mistakes in the two previous games against the Blazers. On Feb. 2, Portland finished with a season-low two steals in Salt Lake City.

To win: The Blazers rebounded — literally and figuratively — during the Feb. 3 game in the home-and-home matchup against the Jazz. After losing the first game and getting outworked under the defensive glass by a 10-rebound margin, the Blazers followed up with a win and also finished with 39 defensive boards, which tied a season high. So the Blazers will do good to duplicate such an effort that would limit the Jazz's frontline to one-shot possessions.

By the Numbers

0.1 — Percentage change of Damian Lillard's assist-per-game average over the last two months, proving the consistency in his rookie season. On Jan. 23, Lillard averaged 6.6 assists and as of Sunday night, the statistic registered at 6.5.

6 — Number of times this season in which Wesley Matthews has finished a game without making at least one of his 3-point attempts. Last Monday in the loss to Philadelphia, Matthews missed all five shots from beyond the arc.

76 — Days it took for the Blazers to win back-to-back road games this season. Portland capped a four-game road trip with wins on consecutive nights in Memphis and Minneapolis (Jan. 4 and 5). Then last Thursday and Friday, the Blazers beat Chicago, then Atlanta in the midst of their recent five-game trip.

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