Jazz-Trail Blazers Preview

The Associated Press

The Utah Jazz would like to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season. Avoiding that fate could also give them a share of the final playoff position in the Western Conference.

The Portland Trail Blazers would just like to win back-to-back games for the first time in more than two months.

The Jazz look to snap a three-game skid Monday night when they visit the Trail Blazers for the first time this season.

Utah (27-26) has lost three in a row, putting it on the brink of equaling its season-high four-game skid from Feb. 19-28. The current losing streak has dropped the Jazz out of playoff position, one game back of eighth-place Houston. The Rockets visit league-leading Chicago on Monday.

Utah fell behind by 16 after the opening quarter Saturday, and never recovered in a 105-96 road defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We fought back enough to give ourselves a chance, but it just wasn't enough to get over the hump," coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Al Jefferson is certainly doing his part, scoring 26 points on 13-of-22 shooting against the Clippers, one night after he scored 27 and pulled down 16 rebounds in a 104-103 loss to Sacramento.

Jefferson leads Utah with 19.6 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, but the Jazz didn't need him in a 93-89 home victory over Portland (25-28) on Jan. 30. Jefferson missed that contest due to an ankle injury, but Paul Millsap picked up the slack with 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Millsap is averaging 18.3 points and 10.0 boards over his last three meetings with the Trail Blazers.

While Utah is trying to snap its skid, the Blazers would like to finally string a pair of victories together. They haven't won consecutive games since Jan. 23 and 24, and have alternated wins and losses over their last seven contests.

Portland will try to end that trend after beating Minnesota 119-106 on Sunday as LaMarcus Aldridge returned to action.

Aldridge had 26 points and eight rebounds against the Timberwolves after a left elbow sprain had sidelined him two days earlier for a 98-97 loss to the Clippers.

"I just blocked it out," Aldridge said. "When I'm out there I'm going to play."

Aldridge is averaging 23.6 points on 59.3 percent shooting over his last three games. He finished with 25 points and seven rebounds at Utah on Jan. 30, giving him an average of 23.4 points in his last five meetings with the Jazz.

Blazers swingman Nicolas Batum had 15 points in the January visit to Utah, but just nine in a 100-89 win Dec. 30, 2010, the most recent meeting between these teams at The Rose Garden.

Batum scored 24 points in Sunday's win, increasing his season scoring average to a career-high 14.1.

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