Utah (22-10) at Portland (16-16)

By BRETT HUSTON, STATS Senior Writer Thursday, Dec 30, 2010 Tipoff: 10:00 pm EST Thu Dec 30, 2010

The Utah Jazz had four days off before a game against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this week, but felt they lacked energy in their five-point loss.

They’ve been much better with no rest at all.

Utah, which bounced back with a win Wednesday, will try to improve to 7-2 on the second night of back-to-backs Thursday as it looks for revenge against the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.

The Jazz (22-10) had won three straight - all on the road - prior to Christmas, with a 112-107 victory at Minnesota on Dec. 22 leading them into a four-day break.

Utah led Portland (16-16) by seven after the first quarter when it returned to action Monday at home, but wilted from there. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) scored 22 of his 26 points in the final three quarters as the Blazers outscored the Jazz 76-74 over the last 36 minutes of a 96-91 win.

“Sometimes breaks are good; sometimes they are bad,” said Jazz guard Deron Williams(notes), who had 31 points. “Tonight it was bad. We came out sluggish, couldn’t find the energy. But you have to give them credit. They took us out of our stuff. They defended us well.”

Utah fell to 0-3 with at least three days’ rest, but might be in much better shape Thursday despite having just visited the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz are 6-2 on the back end of consecutive games - one of which was a 103-94 win at Portland on Nov. 20 in which they outscored the Blazers 38-20 in the fourth.

They were just 4-4 on the front end of back-to-backs before Wednesday, when Al Jefferson(notes) proved unstoppable at Staples Center. He had 31 points and 10 rebounds in a 103-95 victory over the Clippers.

Utah improved to 11-2 when Jefferson scores at least 19 points, though it had to overcome a 12-point first-quarter deficit.

“I wish we would have come out a lot stronger in the first half,” said rookie Gordon Hayward(notes), who had a season-high 17 points starting in Andrei Kirilenko’s(notes) place. “… I hate (slow starts), but I was proud of the way our guys fought back.”

Kirilenko didn’t play due to a back injury, while C.J. Miles(notes) sat out with the flu.

Neither player’s status is known for Thursday, but Utah could definitely use Miles. The Jazz’s sixth man had 25 points - 17 in the fourth quarter - in the win at Portland last month, hitting seven 3-pointers.

A victory would be Utah’s fourth straight in Portland - all since Jan. 27. The Jazz would be the first visitor ever to win four games at the Rose Garden during the same calendar year.

While the win at Utah was the Blazers’ fourth in five games, they seemed to have little energy the following night in Denver. Portland shot 40 percent Tuesday en route to a 95-77 loss, falling to 4-5 in the second game of back-to-backs.

“We just never really got going,” said Aldridge, who had 17 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks. “It was just one of those nights where it was tough for us to get in a good a rhythm. It’s a tough back-to-back. No excuses, but I think last night took a lot to win in Utah, which a lot of teams don’t ever do.”

Aldridge has certainly stepped up his game as questions linger over Brandon Roy’s(notes) return date. He’s averaged 25.1 points and 11.3 rebounds in his last seven games.

Aldridge’s 22.3 scoring average against the Jazz since 2007-08 is his best against any Western Conference opponent.

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Thursday, Dec 30