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February 20, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

Sports Profit System ranks #1 among all handicappers thanks to an outstanding 39-23 NBA record! The All-Star break has come and gone which brings us to the most exciting and final stage of the regular season as some clubs push and jockey for playoff positions while others fold or even tank on purpose.

Take Portland Trail Blazers at -4.5 spread against Utah Jazz risking 3%

The All-Star Break is over and the NBA is back in full swing tonight as the Blazers travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Jazz. 

With both squads coming off extended layoffs due to the break, this is almost like the start of a new season, except one team has a lot to play for while the other does not. The final 1/3rd of the season is when most teams push hard in order to cement their spot in the playoffs, unfortunately for the Jazz, their struggles in the early part of the season will be insurmountable given their overall record and the fact that they have clinched only 19 wins! They are a young team with good potential for the future but playing in the ultra-competitive Western Conference will leave them on the outside looking in this season. 

Portland comes into this game ranked 8th in the league in scoring, averaging 102.6 points per game. They are a squad that is made up of largely unselfish players who distribute the ball well, looking for the open man. They rank 9th in the league in assists, averaging just over 22 assists per game. Six players average at least 8.9 points with three averaging in double figures. The team is led by All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge who average 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per night. PG Damian Lillard averages 21.5 points and a team leading 6.3 assists per contest while Wes Matthews puts in 16.4 points and is a solid defender. The Trail Blazers are shooting 36.2% from long range ranking 3rd in 3 pointers and average just over 10 per game which will cause Utah problems. Especially since the Jazz defense is allowing teams to shoot 37.7% from beyond the arc! Nicolas Batum's wrist should be healed after 9 days off and he and teammates could be raining down threes tonight. 

While the Portland offense has been impressive, it is their improved defense that has been a major contributor to their success. They are holding their opponents to an average of just 97.3 points a game. They rank 3rd in field goal percentage defense limiting teams to just 43% from the field and have been great at defending the 3-ball. They are tied for first in the league in fewest 3 pointers allowed per game (6) and 2nd in three point percentage defense as they limit opponents to 32% on the year from the outside. Perhaps the biggest advantage that Portland holds over their opponents however has been their work on the glass. They are an excellent rebounding team and have shown their ability to hold their opponents to just a single shot per possession. Portland ranks 2nd in the league in rebounding, grabbing an impressive 46 boards per contest. This has been instrumental in a majority of their victories this season and could be a big factor against an inconsistent Jazz offense that traded away one of its main 3 bigs. 

Despite all of the valid reasons to back Portland tonight, in its simplest form, what we have here in this matchup is a mismatch especially with the Jazz giving away an underrated and continuously improving player in Enes Kanter. The Trail Blazers are the better offensive and defensive club and more fundamentally sound as well. Salt Lake City is not an easy venue to play in; however, having so much time to rest during the All-Star break, the altitude and fatigue should not be an issue in this matchup. Portland have made a living off beating inferior competition this season, going 21-3 against teams with losing records this season! This is also a divisional contest which means this game does matter to both sides. The last time these clubs squared off, Portland escaped with a 1 point victory and the Blazers remember that and will be keen to create extra separation so the game does not hang on another buzzer-beater. Portland has beaten the Jazz 5 straight times due to matchup problems and we believe this will be their sixth in a row!

The Blazers are currently in 3rd place in the West but have the Rockets among others breathing down their necks. The Jazz meanwhile have lost 6 of their last 9 and are out of playoff contention. They are likely playing for a lottery pick this season and after a long break and with their next game not being played until the 23rd, it wouldn't be surprising to see these young players still in "holiday" mode. That would result in a less than focused effort full of sloppy plays and ill-formed decisions. We don't see the Jazz being able to put up more than 94 points in this contest and that should be enough for the Blazers to cover this short number. We've successfully backed Utah in a number of favorable situations this season but don't believe this to be one of them. The last two times the Blazers visited Salt Lake City, they came away with convincing wins with the average margin of 11.5 points! They are capable of winning by double-digits again if they want to and we think the final score will be in the neighborhood of 98-91.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Portland is 7-1 against division opponents this season!
  • Portland is 4-2 ATS as road favorites of 3.5 to 6 points this season.
  • Portland is 22-11 ATS in road games against teams with losing records over the last 2 seasons.

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