USA TODAY Sports
Despite the absence of Wesley Matthews, Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic and Joel Freeland, the Portland Trail Blazers held off the Utah Jazz to split their back-to-back home-and-home series.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, with 23 points and 8 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 11 rebounds), Nicolas Batum (12 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists) and JJ Hickson (21 points, 11 rebounds) contributed to the cause. In Wesley Matthews and Ronnie Price's absence, Nolan Smith (13 points, 2 assists) and Will Barton (7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) were key players.
First Quarter: The short-handed Blazers kept Utah close to start. Every time the Jazz pulled away with their hot shooting, Portland made a key shot to stay within reach. Unfortunately, Nolan Smith came in, immediately turned the ball over, and things looked bleak. But much to everyone's surprise, the Blazers made a run, helped by a few nice plays by Nolan. The Blazers were somehow leading by 1 after one.
The good thing about having a bench that scores 16ppg, they really can’t do much worse than expectations
Second Quarter: The luck couldn't continue. More Blazer miscues and missed shots helped Utah take a 7 point lead halfway into the quarter. But the Blazer starters fought back, highlighted by back-to-back Lillard three-pointers to regain the lead. But the shots stopped falling, and Utah took a 3 point lead into the locker room.
I expend so much energy yelling at my tv during Blazer games. More in a stress-filled way than a calorie-burning way
Third Quarter: Victor Claver nailed a three pointer to open the second half. But Utah found their groove afterward, jumping to a 10 point lead. But they forgot about Lillard and Will Barton. They hit multiple shots and assisted others, combining to score 14 straight points and take a 4 point lead! Barton finished with a nice assist to Aldridge to complete a great run for a 5 point lead.
I think Barton is gonna be pretty good.
Fourth Quarter: Hickson quickly made the lead 7, but Utah fought back. Nolan Smith held them at bay with a three-pointer, but Utah wasted no time, tying the game within minutes. Luke Babbitt hit another three to regain the lead, and the teams played back and forth for minutes. Nolan hit a layup on the baseline to give the Blazers a three point lead with 5 minutes left. Utah kept pushing, but it was 6 with two minutes left. It was 7 with 60 seconds left. Utah tried to make a run, thanks to some Blazer free-throw troubles, but they ran out of time and the streamers fell. With help from a few unlikely heroes, the short-handed Blazers split a big series with Utah.
Stay tuned for more analysis from Blazer’s Edge later tonight. In the meantime, check out the upcoming Blazers schedule. -- Tim