Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers meet tonight for the first of three April matchups
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers will get reacquainted tonight after having not played each other for a couple of months.
Over the next three weeks, they might get sick of each other, seeing as this is the first off three meetings they'll have between now and the regular season finale on April 26.
Portland isn't exactly red hot, but the Blazers have turned things back around after a midseason free fall to win four of seven games, including a 119-106 drubbing of Minnesota on Sunday night.
The Jazz (27-26) are a game out of the final playoff spot behind Houston (28-25), but Portland is there in the mix as well at 25-28. The Blazers are 5-5 since coach Nate McMillan was fired.
"They're playing better," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "They're using the they've been playing the last two games as some kind of momentum to get another chance. ... We're all fighting for the spot."
Utah needs to turn things around. Since winning six straight, the Jazz have dropped four of five contests, including three straight. Their 8-19 road record is one of the worst in the NBA.
"We still have 13 games left. We've got to get better on the road," Corbin said. "We've got six of them on the road, and we need to win road games."
The beginning of games will be an area of emphasis for the Jazz, who have fallen behind by at least 18 points in their last three road losses to the Clippers, Celtics and Hawks.
"Our approach to it has to be more defensive minded," Corbin said.
The Jazz's goal: Keep opponents in the low-20s/high-teens in scoring during the first quarter.
Corbin acknowledged the Jazz also need more offense from their second unit, which has slipped in productivity of late.
Corbin was asked if backup point guard Earl Watson is playing as well now as Jamaal Tinsley was during the winning streak.
"He's not the scorer that Tinsley is. He plays and does different things for us," Corbin responded. "Jamaal scores the ball a little bit more for us. But (Earl)'s doing what he did with that second group (before his sprained ankle). Any time you come off injury and you sit a few games, it takes you a little while to get your momentum back."
Corbin will also try to get his guys to stay focused but have fun down the home stretch of this season.
"You've got to be loose in it but not relaxed. ... We're in a fight," he said, "but we can't get uptight in the fight."
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