Portland Trail Blazers vs. Utah Jazz Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 14th 2023

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Lauri Markkanen returned to the Utah Jazz’s lineup on Wednesday and gave the team an immediate jolt.

His contributions fueled a win and now the Jazz will look to record back-to-back victories for just the third time this season when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Markkanen missed eight straight games due to a left hamstring injury, and he was limited to 24-plus minutes in Utah’s 117-113 victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

However, he made the most of his time, logging 23 points and eight rebounds. He also knocked down four 3-pointers in Utah’s second victory in the past seven games.

“Winning the game, that’s the most important thing, and coming in and doing whatever you can no matter how many minutes you play,” Markkanen said afterward. “So that’s what I tried to do.”

The victory was the first for the Jazz since they posted a 118-113 overtime win over the visiting Trail Blazers on Dec. 2. Collin Sexton was the biggest standout that night with 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting.

Sexton also had a solid game against the Knicks. He started for the first time this season and scored a season-best 26 points and matched his high of seven assists.

“I feel like that was a solid game, being my first time in the starting lineup all year,” Sexton said. “I was ready for my opportunity. Just coming out with the victory, that’s the most important thing.”

The Thursday contest is the final meeting of the regular season between Utah and Portland. The Jazz won two of the previous three meetings.

Overall, the Trail Blazers have lost four straight games as they open a five-game homestand.

Portland fell 132-127 to the host Los Angeles Clippers on Monday even though Anfernee Simons (38) and Shaedon Sharpe (27) combined for 65 points.

Simons has averaged 32 points and has made 15 of 34 3-point attempts (44.1 percent) in three outings since returning from a thumb injury that sidelined him for 18 games.

Portland received an encouraging performance from rookie point guard Scoot Henderson in the loss to the Clippers.

The No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft has struggled with his shooting, so opposing teams are often leaving him open and daring him to shoot. The strategy didn’t work Tuesday as Henderson scored a career-best 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-4 success from 3-point range.

“Opponents are going to give me the time to shoot the ball,” Henderson said afterward. “They’re going to go under screens, they’re not going to try to contest the 3-ball, obviously, just based off the numbers and stuff. I understand that, so I’m just taking my time when I have the open shot.”

Even after the effective showing, Henderson is shooting just 35.4 percent from the field and has made only 12 of 54 3-point attempts (22.2 percent). He is averaging 10 points per game.

“I thought Scoot was incredible,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “His minutes were great. He gave us some great pace. … I thought it was one of his best kind of all-around efforts in the game. Defensively, he’s always going to be tough and scrappy. Scoot was big for us the whole time.”

Portland’s Jerami Grant (concussion) will miss his fourth straight game, while Malcolm Brogdon (knee) and Deandre Ayton (knee) are questionable. Ayton has sat out the past three games, and Brogdon has missed the past two.

Utah rookie guard Keyonte George injured an ankle against the Knicks. Jazz coach Will Hardy said George would undergo an MRI exam on Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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