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, Ore. — The No. 3 playoff seed in the
Western Conference is on the line Wednesday night at Moda Center when the
Portland Trail Blazers play host to the Utah Jazz is what will have all the feel
of a playoff game.

Portland and Utah come into the final regular-season game with a 48-33
record, but the teams have taken decidedly different routes to get there.

The Trail Blazers enjoyed a 13-game win streak in late February and early
March but enter Wednesday’s contest coming off a four-game losing streak. Utah,
meanwhile, joins the Houston Rockets as the hottest teams in the NBA. Since Jan.
24, when they were 19-28, the Jazz are 29-5 and have won six straight coming
into the showdown at Portland.

The Jazz aren’t just winning games, they’re beating opponents up. In their
recent stretch of victories Rafael
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, they’ve defeated Minnesota 121-97, trounced the
L.A. Clippers 117-95 and topped the L.A. Lakers 112-97. On Tuesday, Utah
annihilated Golden State 119-79 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

“More than anything, I’m just really proud of our guys,” Utah coach Quin
Snyder told reporters. “What these guys did collectively to get better. … I
don’t want to diminish what this group has accomplished.”

But the Jazz know there is more to accomplish.

“The next thing is getting that No. 3 spot and homecourt advantage (in the
first round of the playoffs),” Utah rookie guard Donovan Mitchell said. “That’s
our big goal now.”

Utah will be playing the second of back-to-back games at Moda Center, but
Snyder used no player more than 28 minutes in the rout of the defending champion
Warriors.

More than a week ago Cheap
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, Portland was one victory away from
locking down homecourt advantage. That win never came with the Blazers losing in
succession to Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Denver on a highly discouraging
road trip. Now, it comes down to one more chance to clinch the No. 3 spot in the
West.

Portland’s offense has been struggling in recent games, but never more so
than Monday night at Denver, when the Blazers shot 33 percent from the field,
including 7 for 33 from 3-point range. Was it a matter of just missing good
shots?

“We can shoot the ball Cheap
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,” Portland point guard Damian Lillard said
after the Denver game. “If we were shooting bad because we were taking bad
shots, then that would be a problem. But we are getting good looks. … We shoot
the ball. That’s what our team does. It’s not a concern. It always comes
back.”

Portland coach Terry Stotts said he was encouraged by the defense the Blazers
played at Denver, holding the Nuggets to 37.3 percent shooting. Another good
sign: The performance of center Jusuf Nurkic, who scored 20 points and collected
19 rebounds — including a career-high eight off the offensive glass — against
his old team. Nurkic’s matchup with Utah’s Rudy Gobert will be a key one
Wednesday night.

The Blazers will be helped by the return of power forward Ed Davis, who
missed four games with a sprained ankle. The veteran reserve, who provides
rebounding, defense and energy off the Portland bench Jorge
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, came back to play 15 minutes against the Nuggets
and should be closer to 100 percent against the Jazz.

Portland’s starting small forward, Moe Harkless, remains out after undergoing
knee surgery March 27. He is expected to be back for the
playoffs.image

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