PORTLAND – Going into the 3rd quarter, I was prepared to send my good friend Clint Peterson a text for having so little faith in the Jazz going into this game. As it turns out, Clint was a prophet. Portland stole this game from Utah, 105-99.
Jazz will have to come out aggressive, everything is against them taking this one.
The strange thing about Saturday night’s game was the fact that the Utah Jazz did come out very aggressive. The game opened up with some interesting defensive adjustments from the Portland Trailblazers. After getting burned in the post Friday night, Portland started the game double teaming the ball whenever it entered the post. When Portland came down to double, they left Jazz point guard Jamaal Tinsley open, but made sure to cut off the outlet pass to sharpshooter Randy Foye. Despite this defensive pressure, Al Jefferson was able to find a way to pass out of the double team to his teammates cutting to the hoop, resulting in 5 assists in the first quarter.
Portland wasn’t about to let the Jazz run away too early, however. The Blazers made a final big push and ended the first quarter on a 9-2 run to go up 24-23 after the first 12 minutes of the game. Marvin Williams had 9 points in the first quarter, soliciting him a Tweet from fellow teammate (and proud father) Mo Williams.
I see u Marv. Keep it up killa!!!!
Portland opened the 2nd quarter with some fire, and continued to stack their defense below the three point line whenever Tinsley was in the game. Due to the stranglehold Portland was putting on the paint, the Jazz tried to push the ball out fast in transition and get baskets before the Blazers could get set up in their defense.
The transition game proved beneficial to the Jazz, and they ended up on top 46-43 after two quarters of basketball.
Marvin Williams was the leading scorer for the Jazz with 11, while rookie guard Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 12 points in the first half.
Up to this point, the Jazz had played pretty well. They’d adjusted to what Portland was doing defensively, and found a way to get some baskets against the Blazers’ tough paint defense. Hard cuts and good movement had helped them get good open looks during the first half, despite the intense double-team effort Portland made whenever Utah threw the ball into the post.
Opening the 3rd quarter, Foye decided to bang down some threes, but Portland put together an amazing 19-4 run to close out the quarter.
On the fourth quarter we go, mercifully, after the Blazers go on a 19-4 run in the final 6:05.
The Jazz owned a 10 point lead thanks to the three balls from Foye, but they gave up some easy offensive rebounds to Portland that helped fuel the Blazers’ run. Portland owned a hard-earned 72-67 lead after 3 quarters of basketball.
The Jazz realized they’d need a spark in the 4th quarter if they wanted a shot to win, and swingman DeMarre Carroll provided it when he drew a technical foul after hitting his 5th shot of the night. Following Carroll’s technical foul, Utah put together an 8-0 run that tied the game up at 79 with 8:05 left to go.
Then, newfound Jazz-killer Luke Babbit nailed a corner 3 that gave Portland an 82-79 lead with 6:50 left in the game. Utah managed to pull themselves within striking distance late in the game thanks to missed free throws from Portland, and were only down 99-96 withh 33.9 second left. J.J. Hickson responded by making 2 free throws for Portland, and gave the Blazers a 101-96 lead with 19.9 seconds to go.
While losing such a hard fought game, one in which they even had a comfortable 10 point lead, obviously hurts the Jazz, a game like this shouldn’t weigh too heavily on the minds of fans or players. The Jazz played with incredible effort but just couldn’t find a way to finish the game. Utah also took care of the ball extremely well, only committing 5 turnovers. There’s some great things to be taken from this game, including how well the Jazz were able to dish out assists with their backup point guard Earl Watson injured. The Jazz dished out 24 dimes Saturday night.
The Jazz can bounce back next week, as they have 3 straight home games. After losing this game tonight, Utah is only a half game ahead of the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference playoff race. They need to take advantage of the softer teams coming into Salt Lake City this week and create a cushion for themselves when the tough road trips later this month come up.
Foye led the Jazz in scoring with 23 points, Paul Millsap led the team with 8 boards, and Tinsley tallied 6 assists to lead the team in that category. Gordon Hayward missed another game with his sprained shoulder, but he did travel to Portland with the Jazz. Watson did not.
Wesley Matthews was dressed for Portland but declared inactive for the game a few minutes before tip-off. Rookie sensation Lillard led the Blazers with 23 points, but Nicolas Batum was the assists leader with 9. Hickson and Lamarcus Aldridge tied in the rebounding department with 11 apiece.
Spencer is a senior at Payson High School who loves fishing almost as much as basketball. He hopes to break into the sports writing business and make a living watching a game. You can find him on Twitter @Spencer_Durrant.