Trail Blazers vs. Jazz preview: Can Utah deliver major blow to Portland's playoff hopes?

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With their playoff hopes dwindling, can the Blazers get a huge win in Utah even without LaMarcus Aldridge?

Still looking to secure a playoff spot of their own, the Utah Jazz have an opportunity to deliver a significant blow to the Portland Trail Blazers' postseason aspirations.

The two teams tip off Monday night from Salt Lake City as the Jazz goes for a fifth straight win.

Portland, currently 11th in the West with a 33-40 record, is 4.5 games behind the Jazz for the conference's final postseason spot. Nearly that entire lead has been built in the past two weeks, as Utah has won its past four contests while the Blazers have dropped four straight.

Portland once again won't have star big man LaMarcus Aldridge on Monday, but the urgency should be up for a team on its way to the draft lottery. With less than three weeks remaining in the regular season, this may be one of the last chances for Portland to make a run towards that No. 8 seed.

One of the most shallow teams in the NBA, the Blazers have seen the costly results of their weak bench in the second half of the season. Despite boasting quality players like Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard, Portland has a 13-25 record since mid-January as poor depth has taken its toll.

The Jazz have seen their own fair share of struggles this season, but they've managed to find a nice rhythm with some good timing.

At one point just a couple weeks ago, it appeared Utah was following the same path as Portland, dropping in the standings after starting the season strong. Instead, the team has righted the ship in the past week-plus, winning four straight games in decisive fashion to re-enter the playoff picture.

The Blazers are hoping to come up with a similar effort, but the ice is getting thin so late in the season. Beyond the sizable lead Utah has entering Monday's game, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks still loom ahead of Portland in the standings, leaving the team in need of a borderline miracle finish to snag that No. 8 seed.

If it happens, one has to imagine such a run will begin Monday night in Utah.

With games against the Jazz, Lakers and Mavs all on the schedule, the Blazers will have a chance to make some noise. Unfortunately, the odds are against this team when combing the remainder of the schedule. The other six teams Portland will face? Memphis, Houston, Oklahoma City, Denver, Golden State and the Clippers.

That's six games against Western Conference playoff teams, plus another three against the conference's other remaining playoff hopefuls. As well as Meyers Leonard has played without Aldridge healthy, with coach Terry Stotts praising his performance, as Blazer's Edge notes, we're talking about some great teams.

If the Blazers can pull this one off, starting with a win against the Jazz, it'll be one to remember.

Monday's game begins at 9 p.m. ET.

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