The Portland Trail Blazers will head to the Mormon state on Wednesday night to take on the best team in basketball in the Utah Jazz. Both teams are in the driver’s seat for a very coveted spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, but which one will be able to further its case when they meet at Vivint Arena on Wednesday night? In this most strangest of NBA seasons, nothing is certain yet, so we can at least expect a lively game in Salt Lake City.
Free Picks: Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Blazers Attempt To Avoid Play-In As They Head To Utah (Season Betting Record: 97-105)
The Utah Jazz continue to try and tighten their stranglehold on the top seed in the Western Conference—which would ensure they would avoid LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, who are expected to fall into the play-in tourney—but the Phoenix Suns continue to nip at their heels.
The Jazz look good to hold onto to the No. 1 seed, but the Suns have refused to go away and still have a theoretical chance at that top spot as of this writing. The Jazz wanting to avoid an unappealing first round matchup is a slightly different brand of desperation than what the Trail Blazers will be dealing with when the teams converge on Wednesday, however.
The Blazers are guaranteed at least a spot in the play-in—but that’s it. They sit tied for sixth place, the last spot that will be safe from what seems to be a dreaded play-in tournament for the teams that expected to avoid it. You can definitely class the Blazers in that category, but it’s not like they haven’t been there before.
They defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in the NBA’s inaugural play-in game last season in the bubble, but despite that success and experience in those scenarios, there’s no doubt that they will be trying to avoid the whole ordeal this time around. It’s stressful.
They are tied with the Dallas Mavericks in 5th-6th as of this writing, but the Lakers sit just a game behind the pair, and with the return of the King imminent, both teams are likely shaking in their boots. With that whole ordeal in mind, it would behoove Damian Lillard and the cavalry to put some distance between themselves and those chasing them.
That means a win against the best team in basketball on the road on Wednesday. It may sound tough, but it really isn’t so. The Jazz will be without their best player, Donovan Mitchell, and their best ball-handler and starting point guard, Mike Conley, for the 14th and ninth game, respectively.
Utah has had a pretty good amount of success in the interim, but hot shooting can only last so long. They needed 48 from Bojan Bogdanovic to get by the Denver Nuggets last week and 41 from presumptive Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson in their last outing wasn’t even enough to beat the Golden State Warriors.
We’re getting right down to the nitty gritty of the season here, so our NBA pick for this matchup is going to be determined mostly by which team is going to need it and want it more. Considering what the Blazers went through last year and their current situation, we think they are going to be the more willful team, and are therefore going to serve as our top pick for Wednesday night.
It’s pretty clear from the play of the two teams over this crucial period which group wants it more right now. The Blazers have won four straight and eight of their last nine games. The Jazz, meanwhile, have gone just 3-6 against the spread in their last nine games. Not only are they suffering from first place syndrome, but they’re also having to play without arguably their two most important players.
That’s a tough predicament, even for the team with the best record in the NBA. When you consider Portland’s road record this season, the NBA predictions become even easier for this tilt: the Blazers have gone 21-13 ATS as the away team this year, fifth-best in the league.
The stakes are high for the Blazers, they’re in a situation they’ve had success in, and it certainly seems to be Dame Time. We’re taking Portland’s +4.5 point spread at lovely -110 NBA odds as our best bet of the day here.
- Portland is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 road games
- Portland is 21-13 ATS as the away team this season, 5th-best in the NBA
- Portland has won 8 of their last 9 games SU
- Utah is 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games overall
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The Los Angeles Clippers will renew hostilities with the Dallas Mavericks, who they dispatched in the first round of last season’s playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets and the league’s presumptive NBA MVP will look to get off to a strong start against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1.
The Golden State Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies in the final play-in game, which will determine the Western Conference’s eighth seed.
The Washington Wizards will host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night with the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line.
Alex is an alumnus of Ryerson University's RTA Sport Media program, a contributing NHL, NBA, and MLB writer in the BetPicks.ca team. He has been writing on sports, betting, and fantasy contests for several years, including pitstops as an NFL Editor for theScore and as one of the lead NBA news writers for fantasy sports site FantasyPros. As a lifelong athlete, bettor, and sports fan, Alex is uniquely qualified to help you reach the sports betting success that you've always dreamed of and your wife never believed you could achieve.