Utah

“Keep that mental edge” | Utah breaks homestand for road showdown with Portland

Speaking to reporters after Monday night’s 120-102 win over Charlotte, Jazz head coach Will Hardy was asked about the dog days in January.

It’s well known that the games after the turn of the year until the start of the All-Star break are arguably the toughest. Then everyday life becomes extremely difficult and mental/physical weaknesses become clearer.

“I think the weirdest part of the season is now,” said veteran point guard Mike Conley. “We’ve played a lot of games, the lads are either looking forward to a break or preparing for the plans that are being made. Your mind can get a bit muddled now, and your body’s a bit exhausted this time of year anyway, so the combination of that sort adds up.”

One of the biggest obstacles for teams is the trade rumors floating around – and the Jazz are no exception.

With the trading deadline fast approaching – two weeks from Thursday – the teams are trying to decide whether to become a buyer or a seller in the coming weeks. And many in the NBA consider Utah one of the most fascinating teams to watch.

They have an insane amount of assets and tradable contracts — plus GM Justin Zanik and CEO Danny Ainge at the helm — if they want to be buyers. But it is also possible to be a seller and acquire more assets in the future.

On the one hand, the Jazz sit seventh in the Western Conference rankings, just three games out of four seeds and four games out of three seeds. Expectant buyers would likely push the team out of the play-in portion of the postseason and into a top 6 seed.

On the other hand, it would allow Utah to save assets for the future while building on breakout star Lauri Markkanen and rookie associates Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji. The Jazz sit just two games short of the 13th seed, so if they became sellers to acquire more assets, they would be pushing them into the lottery portion of the draft.

But instead of focusing on the uncertainty of tomorrow, Conley and jazz take a completely different approach.

At a time when most teams are looking for answers, Utah is trying to keep up mentally and string together a few wins using its team-friendly schedule.

“Our biggest focus is maintaining that mental edge,” said head coach Will Hardy. “You can run a bit here with that bag of games, but can you mentally dig in and maybe try to give yourself a little advantage now? We believe we can get even better. … If we do that, hopefully the results will go our way.”

After winning five of seven — six of which were at home — Utah will be looking to continue their midseason push when they take to the streets to face a Portland Trailblazers team in much the same spot. Tipoff is set for 8pm MT.

STATISTICS
Utah (25-25, 9-16 away/No. 8 Western Conference)
offense
*117.6 points per game (#4 in NBA)
*116.4 offensive rating (#4 in NBA)
defense
*116.3 points per game (#22 in NBA)
*114.9 defensive rating (#25 in NBA)
Individually
*Lauri Markkanen: 24.8 points | 8.8 Rebounds | 1.8 assists | 43.0% 3P footage
*Jordan Clarkson: 21.1 points | 4.3 Templates | 4.0 rebounds | 34.9% 3P footage
*Collin Sexton: 14.3 points | 2.8 assists | 2.2 Rebounds | 39.6% 3P footage
*Mike Conley: 10.5 points | 7.4 Templates | 37.3% 3P shoot

Portland (22-25, 12-10 home/No. 12 Western Conference)
offense

*113.6 points per game (#17 in NBA)
*114.8 offensive rating (#8 in NBA)
defense
*113.1 points per game (#14 in NBA)
*114.4 defensive rating (#22 in NBA)
Individually
*Damian Lillard: 29.3 points | 7.4 Templates | 3.9 Rebounds | 36.5% 3P footage
*Anfernee Simons: 21.9 points | 3.9 Assists | 2.7 Rebounds | 37.7% 3P footage
*Jerami Grant: 21.2 points | 4.3 Rebounds | 42.7% 3P footage
*Jusuf Nurkic: 14.2 points | 9.9 rebounds | 3.0 Assists | 38.7% 3P footage

KEY COMPARISON
*Jordan Clarkson vs. Damian Lillard
– Two of the league’s most electrifying guards take center stage on Wednesday night when Jordan Clarkson takes on Damian Lillard. Both are the epitome of Bottle Blitz, two players capable of taking over and dominating a game. Both also compete in a recent hot streak on Wednesday; Clarkson has averaged 25.3 points in his last seven games, while Lillard has averaged 35.6 points in his last nine games.

PORTLAND, OR – NOVEMBER 19: Jordan Clarkson #00 of the Utah Jazz drives to the basket during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 19, 2022 at Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. NOTICE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph, the user agrees to the terms of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

INJURY REPORT
Utah

OFF | Johnny Juzang (G-League – Two-Way)
OFF | Micah Potter (G League – Two-Way)
OFF | Kelly Olynyk (left ankle sprain)
Portland
OFF | Ibou Badji (Left Knee Pain)
OFF | Justise Winslow (left ankle sprain

TRANSMISSION INFORMATION
Time:
20:00 CET
Location: Moda Center | Portland, OR
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: The Zone Sports Network

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