UTAH JAZZ

Jazz Fall To Trail Blazers, Drop In Standings

Mar 22, 2023, 10:41 PM | Updated: Mar 23, 2023, 9:29 am

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz failed to win their third straight game as they fell to the Portland Trail Blazers 127-115.

Lauri Markkanen scored 40 points but got little help from his Jazz teammates who struggled to find a consistent offensive attack.

Four Trail Blazers scored at least 20 points led by Damian Lillard who finished with 30.

Jazz Need To Protect Markkanen

Despite his brilliant 40 point outing, Markkanen was visibly beaten up against the Trail Blazers after taking several nasty falls to the floor.

The All-Star forward returned to action against Portland after missing Monday’s win due to a sore back but was still battling through an injury to his left wrist and hand.

Markkanen repeatedly flexed and grabbed at his wrist as he struggled with the injury, but stayed on the floor until late in the fourth quarter.

“We’ll have him looked at by our medical team,” Will Hardy said after the game. “Like anything, they talked to him during the game and he said he was okay but when your body cools down and he wakes up tomorrow, it could be a different story.”

Markkanen still has a lot to play for this season as he looks to lead a team to the playoffs for the first time in his career. He’s also made it no secret that he covets a spot on one of the three All-NBA teams.

But with his emergence as the face of the franchise, Markkanen’s health is far more important than a trip to the Play-In tournament or any end-of-season award.

Even if the forward says he feels healthy enough to play, the Jazz may need to protect Markkanen from himself.

Jazz Rookies Struggle After Strong Showings

After a series of impressive outings from Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji, the two Jazz rookies struggled against a desperate Trail Blazers team.

Portland scored 62 points in the paint connecting on 31-47 shots near the basket at Kessler’s usually stout rim protection was largely absent.

The Trail Blazers repeatedly beat the Jazz to the rim, often using sharp cuts to the basket to find easy finishes.

Kessler finished with eight points, five rebounds, and three blocks, but was a team-worst -19 in just 23 minutes on the floor.

Agbaji meanwhile struggled with the ball in his hands as his role within the offense continues to expand.

The Kansas product knocked down 2-4 from the three-point line as he maintained his hot shooting, but was 0-3 inside the paint, all of which came at the rim.

The Jazz have been surprisingly steady since moving Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker at the trade deadline, largely due to the play of Kessler and Agbaji.

But, the rookies are still prone to the occasional off night, and it was a factor in Wednesday night’s loss to the Trail Blazers.

How Does Loss Change Standings?

The Jazz loss to Portland at home is likely to have a pretty significant impact on the final standings in the Western Conference.

Entering the day the Jazz owned the 10th-best record in the West, tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves, sitting just a half-game back of Dallas and Oklahoma City for the seventh seed, and one game back of the sixth-seeded Golden State Warriors.

However, a loss to Portland teamed with wins by the Warriors, Timberwolves, and the Los Angeles Lakers pushed the Jazz a full game back of both Minnesota and the Thunder, dropped them a half-game behind the Lakers, and kept them from overtaking the Mavericks who fell to Golden State.

The Jazz now sit in the 11th seed in the West, and are two full games back of the Warriors for the sixth seed with less than three weeks remaining in the season.

Unfortunately for Utah, the schedule will only get tougher.

With 10 games left to play, the Jazz have only three games remaining against teams with sub-.500 records.

Two of those come against the Lakers who are 7-4 in their last 11 games and are directly competing with the Jazz for the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.

The other comes against the San Antonio Spurs who own a 2-1 season series lead over the Jazz this year.

Following their loss to Portland, the Jazz fell into a tie with the New Orleans Pelicans for the 11th-worst record in the West.

Jazz Next Broadcast

The Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic will tip off at 7 pm MT in Salt Lake City. The game will be televised on AT&T SportsNet and can be heard on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. It can also be streamed on DirecTV Stream and FuboTV.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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