The Utah Jazz had had a couple of really good games recently, but Wednesday night’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers was not the encore the team was hoping for after gritty wins over the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings.

Instead the Jazz struggled to contain Damian Lillard, struggled to get their offense into a good rhythm and paid the price with a 127-115 loss at home.

3 keys to the Utah Jazz’s 127-115 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers

Missing players

The Jazz have been able to have multiple different players step up over the course of the last month and play really pivotal roles in the absence of players like Jordan Clarkson (dislocated finger) and Collin Sexton (hamstring strain), and that’s been great. It’s been very cool to see Kris Dunn, Walker Kessler, Kelly Olynyk, Damian Jones, Udoka Azubuike and Ochai Agbaji all play important minutes and make a real impact.

That being said, it makes sense that every once in a while it’s made very clear that the Jazz are lacking some top-option guys around Lauri Markkanen.

When Markkanen’s got 40 points in a game and the next highest scorer is Dunn, who didn’t break double-digit figures until the fourth quarter, that’s a point when you really miss guys like Clarkson and Sexton.

Lauri’s hand

For about the last month Markkanen has been dealing with a left hand injury, what seems like a bruise and strain. X-rays have all been negative and although he’s been getting some minor treatment on the hand after games, he’s been reassured by the medical staff that he’s not in any danger of making the injury worse.

All that being said, it has been painful. During the Jazz’s recent six-game road trip, Markkanen said that it can feel fine and normal for a couple of days, but if the hand gets hit at the right spot or he lands hard on his hand, that it feels like it’s a brand new injury and it’s tender and sore.

Well, that looks to be what happened against the Blazers. Markkanen ended up holding his left hand, flexing and favoring it in the second half after landing hard on it.

“We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and go from there,” he said after the loss. “It’s been just getting hit for a month or whatever. So it’s just about seeing what you can play through... once you get going you don’t really think about it but then obviously during dead balls and stuff… we’ll see.”

To this point he hasn’t missed any practice or game time because of the injury, so we’ll see where the Jazz and Markkanen go from here.

Upcoming opponents

Though the Jazz’s schedule looks tough if you look at the opponent names and records alone, the Jazz have quite a few upcoming opponents who could choose to rest players when you consider their schedules.

On Friday the Jazz will play the Milwaukee Bucks at Vivint Arena, but the next night the Bucks will be in Denver to face the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. That Saturday game could serve as a Finals preview and the Bucks might choose to rest some of their more important players against the Jazz, including Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.

Antetokounmpo has rested a couple of times this season on one end of back-to-backs and Middleton hasn’t played in both games of a back-to-back once this season.

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On Saturday, the Jazz will play in their own back-to-back when they visit the Sacramento Kings, but that will also be the second night of a back-to-back for Sacramento, who will be facing the Phoenix Suns on Friday night in a matchup between the No. 2 and 3 teams in the West.

When the Jazz face the Celtics on March 31 in Boston, it will be the night after the Celtics go up against the Bucks in an Eastern Conference battle between the top two teams.

Later this season, the Jazz will also be facing the Lakers the night before the Lakers take on the Clippers, then the Jazz will play the Denver Nuggets the night before the Nuggets take on the Kings.

This isn’t meant to say that the Jazz are going to get lucky and only have to play against shorthanded rosters the rest of the season. The Jazz could choose to rest some of their own players in some of these games. Rather, the point is to say that none of these games are sure things either way and it’s going to make for some really interesting basketball.

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