Wesley Matthews’ arrival in Portland last season helped the Trail Blazers turn around their fortunes against the Utah Jazz.
Matthews tormented his former team in 2010-11, and he’ll hope to do the same as these Northwest Division rivals meet for the first time this season Monday night in Salt Lake City.
Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have opened Utah as a 2 1/2-point home favorite, with the total set at 189.
As an undrafted rookie two seasons ago, Matthews developed into a starter in helping Utah (11-7) capture a share of the division title and reach the Western Conference semifinals.
The Jazz won all four matchups with Portland (12-8) that season, but the Trail Blazers signed Matthews – a restricted free agent – to a five-year deal worth $34 million afterward.
Matthews averaged 19.5 points against the Jazz last season for his second-highest career figure against any opponent. His play was a big reason Portland took three of four matchups.
He’s off to a bit of a slow start this season with a 13.6 scoring average, but he was one of four Portland players to reach double figures Friday with 16 points in a 109-71 home rout of Phoenix. The Trail Blazers posted their second-highest scoring output of the season.
“We wanna run, we wanna play uptempo,” Matthews said. “When you play like that, the only way to do that is to get stops and that’s what we were able to do. So that fueled us offensively.”
Portland, which won both visits to Utah last season, is eager to improve on its 3-7 road record.
“I don’t know why we play like we do (Friday) and then we go on the road and the effort doesn’t seem to be there at times,” said center Marcus Camby, who grabbed 20 rebounds and did not score against the Suns. “That’s something we talked about internally, that’s something we look forward to correcting.”
Utah improved to 9-3 at home with Saturday’s 96-93 victory over Sacramento. The Jazz won despite 18 turnovers and a paltry 18 combined points from top scorers Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
“We’ll take the win,” coach Ty Corbin said. “We didn’t execute and play our best basketball, we gutted it out and got a good win.”
With the Kings focusing their attention on Jefferson and Millsap, Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles combined for 41 points to lift the Jazz.
“(Saturday) was one of those nights they did a good job of doubling down on those guys and, like I said, we had some tired legs,” Miles said. “I think me and G-Time (Hayward) are more than capable of being able to make plays. We just try to stick within the offense and some nights, nights like this, the offense works in my favor.”
Only one matchup between these teams last season came after Utah dealt Deron Williams to New Jersey for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and draft picks Feb. 23. Harris’ 26 points weren’t enough in a 98-87 home loss to Portland on April 7, and he’s now struggling through a subpar season, averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 assists.
Jefferson averaged 13.5 points and 11.8 boards in the 2010-11 season series while Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 22.3 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Portland had been 0-5 at Utah with Aldridge as a starter before its two wins last season.
“In the altitude it’s going to be a big test for us, but, you know, we’ve gotta be ready to go,” Aldridge said.